Consumers should pitch in on road user charges: McArdle


McArdle Freight calls for changes to charges scheme, saying consumers should also share the financial burden

Consumers should pitch in on road user charges: McArdle
Consumers should pitch in on road user charges: McArdle
By Brad Gardner | April 15, 2010

The current road user charge system should be overhauled and consumers forced to bear some of the cost rises, according to a trucking operator.

Brian McArdle, who runs McArdle Freight, has questioned why trucking operators should be the only ones to pay a 4.2 percent rise in registration and fuel fees.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) last month proposed the increase due to a 10.7 percent rise in the level of government expenditure on the road network to reduce congestion, improve B-double access and shorten trip times.

McArdle, who is also the president of the South Australian branch of the Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA), says the investment also benefits consumers because more freight can be delivered more productively.

"The consumers are better for it, but we’re subsidising them," he says.

"There should have been a percentage [of the cost] put across every registration…why can’t the consumer pay?"

Although the NTC claims the industry has benefited from government investment, McArdle says his vehicles are forced to travel on some dirt routes where it is impossible to go beyond 15km/h.

Echoing comments from the executive director of ALTA’s national branch, Philip Halton, McArdle wants a user pays system.

Although he only uses his A-trailer two months of the year, he must pay the same fee as an operator which may use its equipment more often.

McArdle wants governments to introduce a $500 flat fee for everyone in the industry. Any further costs will be from fuel use.

He says this will lead to a user pays system because those who use more of the road network will pay through greater use of fuel.

"Make them pay for the 400,000km of road usage," McArdle says of the likes of Toll and Linfox.

"I don’t believe in the rego system we have whatsoever."

His comments come as the NTC conducts its consultation on the proposed increase to registration and fuel charges.

If the 4.2 percent rise is accepted by governments, the diesel excise will rise from 21.7 cents to 22.6 cents a litre – cutting the fuel rebate amount operators can claim back.

Registration fees were due to rise without the extra 4.2 percent because of a three-year plan to recoup money the NTC says was owed due to the level of government expenditure on the road network.

If B-double operators are forced to pay the extra 4.2 percent, registration will rise to $15,340 for each combination.

Semi-trailer registration will increase from $5310 to $5612.

The consultation process ends on April 23. A final recommendation will be made to governments on April 30.

If accepted, the 4.2 percent rise will coincide with the planned registration charges on July 1.

The charges proposal could have been much higher if the NTC did not alter its flawed process.

Charges are based on averages, meaning the NTC did not take into account the changes in the mix of heavy vehicles.

"For example, the number of 9 axle B-doubles in the fleet increased by 20 percent from 2004-05 to 2005-06," the new Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Chairman David Simon says.

Under the NTC’s unaltered formula, operators would have been slugged with a 9.7 percent increase which the ATA claims would have overcharged the industry by $116 million.


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