Albanese introduces bill to amend FIRS charges

Rudd Government introduces amendment to FIRS charges to increase registration by 4.2 instead of 9.7 percent

Albanese introduces bill to amend FIRS charges
Albanese introduces bill to amend FIRS charges
By Brad Gardner | May 12, 2010

Trucking operators under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) will avoid paying an almost 10 percent rise in fees after an amendment was introduced to road charges legislation yesterday.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese introduced the Interstate Road transport Charge Amendment Bill into Federal Parliament to amend the Road Transport Charge Act.

Albanese says the amendment is necessary because the formula used to determine FIRS charges incorrectly recommended a 9.7 percent increase from July 1 this year instead of the correct figure of 4.2 percent.

Without the amendment, Albanese says operators will pay the higher fee until September this year because the Act has time restrictions on when adjustments can be made.

"…it prevents amended regulations that would lower the annual registration charges adjustment from a 9.7 percent increase in registration charges to a 4.2 percent increase from coming into effect on July 1, 2010," Albanese says.

Operators will also not be reimbursed for paying the extra cost until September, with Albanese saying there is no mechanism in the Act to refund the difference to the industry.

"There is no administrative option to deal with this issue," he says.

Albanese expects the amendment will save the trucking industry $116 million a year.

"This legislative action will leave up to $800 per vehicle in the pockets of operators at a time when our economy is recovering from the worst global recession in 75 years."

"The new regulation, with an amended formula, will make sure the trucking industry continues to pay its fair share of costs associated with maintaining and upgrading the nation’s road network – and not a cent more."

The National Transport Commission (NTC) recommended the 4.2 percent increase because governments had invested an extra 10.7 percent in the road network this financial year.

"Roads expenditure across all levels of government has increased significantly in recent years," Albanese says.

But the charging formula wrongly calculated registration fees because it is based on averages over a seven-year cycle.

"The existing formula underestimated the growth in the number of B-doubles that has occurred since it was first developed," Albanese says.

While the cost of registering a B-double will rise to $15,340 from July 1, Albanese says reforms to the charging system in 2007 have helped owners of smaller trucks.

The changes ended cross-subsidisation of larger trucks by smaller vehicles and recouped money from the industry for past road expenditure.

"It’s worth noting that even after the subsequent annual increases the owners of these trucks are still paying less today than they were in 2006," Albanese says.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) opposes the 4.2 percent rise, claiming the industry will still be charged too much.

The Victorian Transport Association accused governments of taking "all they can get from the industry".

Albanese says the states and territories will also introduce amendments to ensure intrastate trucking operators do not pay the 9.7 percent increase.

"State and territory governments will implement the adjusted 4.2 percent registration charge increase from July 1, 2010," he says.

"All transport ministers agreed to address this over-recovery at their meeting in Perth on April 30, 2010 by amending their respective charges legislation to ensure the formula neither under nor over charges the trucking industry."

Albanese says the amendment will not remove the Parliament’s ability to scrutinise any future increases proposed by the NTC and that the latest rise can still be opposed.

The 4.2 percent increase also applies to the fuel excise, cutting almost one cent from the diesel rebate trucking operators can claim.

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