Higher charges will push industry 'over the edge'


Rudd Government urged to abandon plans to increase heavy vehicle charges or risk sending trucking operators to breaking point

Higher charges will push industry 'over the edge'
Higher charges will push industry 'over the edge'
By Brad Gardner

The Rudd Government is being urged to abandon plans to increase heavy vehicle charges or risk sending already struggling trucking operators to breaking point.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has slammed the proposed increase in registration fees and the road user charge from July 1 this year.

Hughie Williams from the TWU’s Queensland branch claims the charges will have serious ramifications on the industry, which is struggling under the weight of the global financial crisis.

"It is going to push people over the edge," Williams says.

B-double operators will be hit with an almost $3,000 increase in registration fees, while a 0.7 percent increase in the road user charge will reduce the fuel tax credit to 16.4 cents.

Williams has questioned the reason for the increase, saying governments may be overcharging the industry.

"We would like to see some justification. Is all the money coming out of the transport industry being spend on roads?" Williams says.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) is currently consulting with industry stakeholders to determine the trucking sector’s stance on higher charges.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has backed higher registration fees, with ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn saying it is justified because governments are investing more funds in the road network.

The ATA, however, has so far remained silent on whether it supports the increase in the road user charge.

ATA Chief Executive Stuart St Clair says the peak lobby group has not yet looked at the reasoning for the proposed increase and will make its position known once it determines if the 0.7 cent increase is necessary.

"We have agreed as an industry we have to pay our way, but we shouldn’t pay more than we have to," St Clair says.

But even if sections of the trucking industry support the excise increase, the Opposition has indicated its intention to block it.

Speaking at last week’s Australian Trucking Convention on the Gold Coast, opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss claimed the Government was attempting to once again tax the industry.

He told delegates the Opposition would only support higher charges if the Government built more rest areas.

Unlike the annually adjusted registration charges, any changes to the road user charge must go through parliament.

The Coalition needs the support of at least one cross-bench senator to block legislation

.The NTC says the industry needs to pay a higher road user charge because there has been "a substantial increase" in road expenditure since 2007.

"Revenue recovered through heavy vehicle charges contributes to building better and safer roads for improved higher productivity vehicle access," the NTC says.

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