ATA makes last ditch effort to defeat charges proposal

By: Graham Gardiner

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) will step up its lobbying of transport ministers in order to dissuade the Australian Transport

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) will step up its lobbying of transport ministers in order to dissuade the Australian Transport Council (ATC) from passing massive registration and fuel hikes due to concerns they may cause an inflation breakout.

The ATC is due to meet at the end of February to vote on whether the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) proposed registration hikes – which could see B-triple charges rise to more than $20,000 per year – should be introduced.

The ministers will also look at raising the fuel excise by 1.36 cents, from 19.63 cents/l to 21 cents/l.

ATA CEO Stuart St Clair says the twin effects of these proposals have grave implications for containing inflation as the transport industry will have to pass on increases to customers.

"Registration charges would increase for more than 60 percent of Australia’s heavy vehicles," he says.

"Those increased costs…would flow through to the cost of the ordinary goods and services bought by Australian families."

St Clair says the ATA, along with its state branches, will actively try to influence governments to scrap the registration and fuel hike proposals right up to the vote date in February.

"All you can do is continue to lobby until the last vote is cast," he says.

"The inflation rate is now so high that governments should be rejecting every proposal from their agencies that would raise prices – including the NTC’s plan."

But if the ATC does endorse the NTC’s proposal, St Clair says governments need to spend the extra money on expanding road networks in order to offset the increase in costs.

The ATA raised its concerns in a meeting last week with three senior staff members of Transport Minister Anthony Albanese’s office, which St Clair says was a "good meeting".

The hikes, if passed, would come amid already rising truck operating costs. As ATN's exclusive ATN-PKF Truck Operating Cost Index shows, record-high fuel prices pushed operating costs up 2.15 percent higher than the last quarter of 2007. This was preceded by an almost one percent hike in the previous quarter.

The national average price of diesel was $1.42 during the quarter, the highest in the ten-year history of the index.

Non-fuel costs rose by just 0.4 percent, meaning the cost of fuel accounted for 82.3 percent of the rise.

The Index shows a 4.98 percent jump in costs across 2007.

In what is a double whammy for the trucking sector, the massive increase in operating costs is coinciding with declining profit margins.

"Profit margins in the trucking industry have gone down; they have not increased, although prices have increased," St Clair says.

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