Government says truckies will be big winners under FuelWatch

By: Jason Whittaker

The Rudd Government says trucking operators may save up to 30 cents per litre on fuel under the much-maligned FuelWatch

The Rudd Government says trucking operators may save up to 30 cents per litre on fuel under the much-maligned FuelWatch scheme, which is to be introduced in December.

In an effort to fend off criticism from the Opposition that FuelWatch will not halt skyrocketing fuel prices, Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Chris Bowen used the trucking industry as an example of what the scheme can deliver.

He says by forcing fuel companies to set their next day prices 24 hours in advance, trucking operators will cut running costs, meaning they will pass those savings on to consumers in the form of cheaper grocery prices.

"Imagine if a major transport company delivering goods in trucks across the country could have an employee log on to the FuelWatch website and say to their hundreds of drivers spread across the country, ‘Here is the cheapest petrol you can buy’, and it might be 20 cents or 30 cents or 10 cents a litre cheaper than the average," Bowen says.

This is despite the fact most trucking companies, and owner-drivers, have deals in place with a particular fuel provider, meaning they will not shop around for another fuel outlet.

Yet the Government is attempting to use the trucking industry as example to paint the Opposition in a contradictory light, with Bowen saying Coalition leader Brendan Nelson says he supports lower fuel prices but won’t support a scheme that will stop price hikes at the pump.

The Opposition, however, continues to ramp up its attacks on the Government, with shadow treasurer Malcolm Turnbull referring to FuelWatch as "old-style socialism" because it will set a price in stone rather than let fuel outlets compete under free market enterprise.

"It is an assault on competition, an assault on free enterprise, an assault on the market," Turnbull says.

The price of fuel is continuing to be a hot debate after the price of oil shot past $133 a barrel. The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says operators must start adjusting their fuel levies so they are not absorbing the cost of increased diesel prices.

"Some trucking companies impose fuel levies and adjust them regularly, but many companies have been trying to absorb the rising cost of fuel," ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

"Those companies will go out of business unless their customers pay freight rates that reflect their real costs."

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