ATA resolves to continue rest area fight

New heavy vehicle charging system will help end "bitter controversy", but more must be done on rest areas, ATA says

A new heavy vehicle charging system will help end "bitter controversy", but more must be done on rest areas, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says.

The ATA will continue to push for 900 rest areas by 2019, following the passage of legislation that increases the road user charge to 21 cents.

Debate over the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill, which increased the charge, was filled with concerns the Rudd Government was attempting to unfairly tax the industry based on its quest to index the charge by regulation.

The Senate, however, managed to gain an amendment limiting any future increases by disallowable motion.

"The charge won’t go up automatically, and parliament will still have the power to disallow increases in the charge," ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

He says other amendments, such as the 60 day consultation period and public access to government figures, models and formulas has industry support because it will result in a fair and transparent process.

"They [the measures] will help end the long-standing and bitter controversy about how to set heavy vehicle charges," Marytn says.

The only setback for the ATA was the Government’s decision to ignore a proposal linking the construction of rest areas to any future increases to the road user charge.

The peak representative body wanted 90 facilities built each year over a 10 year period under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package.

The ATA proposed the package be increased from $70 million to $100 million over four years, with matching funding from the states and territories.

"We are disappointed we did not succeed in getting the extra funding. We did, however, secure a review of the program, thanks to an amendment moved by Senator Steve Fielding," ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

The ATA will use the review process to once again pressure governments to build hundreds of rest areas, which it argues are needed to meet national guidelines on the AusLink network.

However, the ATA expects the Government’s $70 million package will make a difference.

"The program will deliver as many as 125 new truck rest areas on major highways. If the states and territories provide matching funding, the figure will double to 250 new rest areas," Martyn says.

"The ATA has already submitted our priority rest area funding list to the Government. We will now be working to make sure the money is spent where it will help truck drivers the most."

Martyn says the rest areas have been a uniting issue for the industry due to fatigue management laws.

The heavy vehicle package was reliant on the passage of the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill and the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill.

The latter will alter fees under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS), while the industry will be charged an extra 1.3 cents from January next year under the first Bill.

Trucking operators will still pay the normal fuel tax – 38.143 cents per litre – when they buy fuel.

They will still be able to claim for fuel tax credits on their Business Activity Statements, but will receive 17.143 cents per litre in credits instead of 18.51 cents per litre.

The original version of the laws would have allowed the Government to index the charge, which the ATA says would have gone up an extra six cents per litre over five years without consultation.

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