ATA pushes for inclusion in tax summit

Trucking lobby makes its case for inclusion in the tax summit, which will consider recommendations made by Henry review

By Brad Gardner | September 8, 2010

The trucking lobby is pushing to be part of the forthcoming tax summit to argue its case for a fuel-based charging model for heavy vehicles.

Following the announcement of a new federal government yesterday, the Australian Trucking Association has put its hand up to be part of a forum to revisit Treasury Secretary Ken Henry’s recommendations to improve the tax system.

In return for securing the support of independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged to hold the summit next year.

Henry wants a congestion tax, changes to road funding and a mass-distance-location charging model for trucks.

"The recommendations could impose enormous and as yet unknown compliance costs on trucking operators," ATA Chairman David Simon claims.

"The ATA has developed an alternative to mass-distance-location pricing, fuel based charging. The ATA urges the Government to include our fuel based charging model in the work program for the summit."

Under the ATA’s scheme, two-axle rigids will be charged les than three-axle rigids and articulated vehicles. The difference is meant to take into account the impact heavier trucks have on the road network.

According to Simon, charging trucks based on fuel use will still ensure governments recoup enough money to fund roads.

However, Henry says fuel charging does not take into account "spillover costs" such as congestion or road damage that depend on where and when a vehicle travels.

"…the costs of urban congestion (which vary according to location and time of day) as well as the costs of road-wear caused by heavy vehicles (which vary according to the mass, distance and location of travel) cannot be efficiently priced through a fuel tax," Henry's tax review says.

Under mass-distance-location charging, operators will be monitored via GPS. Charges will be determined by how much weight the truck is carrying, the distance it is travelling and where it is located.

Henry recommends peak-hour pricing to combat congestion by charging a variable fee that rises and falls throughout the day depending on demand.
A subgroup of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is currently looking at a separate feasibility of mass-distance-location charging and will release its recommendations late next year.

"The Government needs to bring together these two work programs, and develop tax reforms that emphasise simplicity rather than theoretical economic perfection," Simon says.

He says the ATA is looking forward to working with Gillard over the next three years and will focus on improving heavy vehicle safety such as the construction of more rest areas.

The previous federal government invested $70 million in a safety program that was spent on building new and upgrading existing rest areas. The Coalition promised to build 500 rest areas over 10 years if elected.

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