Industry will suffer, but NSW hikes rego anyway

<font color=red><b>REGO HIKES:</b></font> Opposition admits operators will suffer from rego increases, but it supports the laws anyway

Industry will suffer, but NSW hikes rego anyway
Industry might suffer, but we support higher fees: Opposition
By Brad Gardner | October 30, 2009

The New South Wales Opposition has supported the Government’s move to increase heavy vehicle registration fees despite concerns trucking operators will struggle to survive.

The Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Amendment (Heavy Vehicle Registration Charges) Bill has passed both houses of parliament without dissent, ushering in indexed registration charges based on the uniform model created by the National Transport Commission (NTC).

The charges will apply from January next year and rise annually over a three-year period. The cost of registering a B-double will rise from about $9000 to over $12,000 a year. Fees for a six-axle semi-trailer will rise to $5310.

Nationals leader Andrew Stoner labelled the move a tax hike and says smaller companies may be forced to breaking point.

"It grieves me that they will face much steeper costs to go into business and maintain their operations, and so will have to borrow more money," he says.

"My fear is that as interest rates rise, living the dream will become very difficult for many who are not part of conglomerates."

However, Stoner declined to oppose the increases due to the lobbying efforts of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

"The association has recommended that the Opposition not oppose the Bill," he says, adding that the ATA originally campaigned against the increases.

Furthermore, Murray-Darling MP John Williams says there is no point arguing against the increases because "regardless of our opposition the changes will go ahead".

The Government says the registration increases are necessary because heavy vehicles are not paying enough for the road damage caused and are being cross-subsidised by smaller vehicles.

"The National Transport Commission heavy vehicle charges determinations aim to ensure that expenditure on road maintenance and improvement is proportionate to their use by heavy vehicles," Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport David Borger says.

The charges were due to be introduced on July 1 in line with the national model but former Roads Minister Michael Daley gave the industry a six-month reprieve.

The move won praise from trucking magnate Ron Finemore and the Livestock Bulk Carriers Association, but other states decided to push ahead with the July deadline.

Orange MP Russell Turner says many companies and owner-drivers locked into long-term contracts will be the first to suffer because they will not be able to adjust their charges.

"These increased heavy vehicle registration charges will cost our trucking industry a considerable amount of money that, in most cases, will not be passed on to customers because of contracts and competition," he says.

Turner urged the Government to increase B-double access on the Great Western Highway in return for increasing fees.

He says trucking operators are currently denied decent and efficient access to the Blue Mountains.

But Labor MP Gerard Martin says 19.5 metre B-doubles will be permitted to travel on selected routes once upgrades to the highway are completed. However, he says 26.5 metre B-doubles will be banned.

The Government says the revenue generated will go directly into road investment to improve productivity and safety in the trucking industry.

Smithfield MP Ninos Khoshaba says the industry has already benefited from investment in the road network despite underpaying road costs by $100 million.

"It is important to emphasise that the charges will be based upon costs that have already been incurred by the Government in maintaining roads," Khoshaba says.

According to Martin, Daley’s decision to defer the charges for six months shows the Government listened to the trucking lobby when it argued operators needed help during the financial downturn.

"Rather than being an enemy of the transport industry as suggested by the Opposition, the NSW Government is a friend," Martin claims.

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