Feds put congestion charging on the table

The Federal Government will consider congestion charging and energy-efficient technology for trucks as part of climate change response

Feds put congestion charging on the table
Feds put congestion charging on the table

By Brad Gardner | October 12, 2010

The Gillard Government will consider supporting congestion charging and energy-efficient technologies for trucks as part of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Minister for Climate Change Greg Combet says the Government will use the findings of a report by the Prime Minister’s Task Group on Energy Efficiency to guide federal climate change policy.

Released last week, the report recommends trials of low-emissions and energy-efficient technology to improve the trucking industry’s energy efficiency.

It wants federal infrastructure funding to be linked to energy efficiency outcomes and for the Federal Government to encourage state and territory jurisdictions to implement variable charging on heavily congested parts of the road network.

"This report is a significant contribution to the energy efficiency debate," Combet told the Carbon Expo in his keynote address.

"The report will help inform the further development and consolidation of the Government’s climate change policy."

The call for variable charging is in line with recommendations contained in the recent review of Australia’s tax system.

Treasury Secretary Ken Henry wants charges to vary based on time of day so that vehicles pay more to use the road network during peak periods.

Professor David Hensher from the University of Sydney says it is a "no-brainer" that any congestion tax must be applied to the whole road network.

"Once you start putting it on bits of the network it’s going to be a disaster because there are a lot of negative implications because people will switch to the free bit. That will become clogged," he says.

The task group’s report adds that congestion charging will only be accepted if motorists are given quality alternatives to private transport. It wants state and territory governments to consider how best to improve public transport infrastructure alongside any talk of congestion charging.

The report highlights the importance of trialling new low-emissions and energy-efficient technologies for the trucking industry to give it investment certainty.

According to the report, trucking operators cannot know if an investment in new technology will deliver a net benefit unless it is trialled under suitable conditions.

"One barrier to further improvements in road freight energy efficiency is the sizeable uncertainty about the energy and financial savings from capital-intensive energy efficiency investments," the task group says.

With the predicted growth in the freight task over the coming decade, the report says it is important Australia improves transport’s energy efficiency.

It says the freight industry is already efficient compared to passenger transport.

"In contrast with our passenger transport, Australian freight is energy efficient compared with that in other countries, mainly because distances and terrain permit greater use of more efficient modes and vehicles such as rail and long-haul trucks," the report says.

Similar to private motor vehicles, the report wants the Federal Government to assess the fuel consumption of various heavy vehicles performing different tasks.

During the consultation process, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) told the task group a fuel rating system would be difficult because efficiency varies significantly depending on configuration, terrain and conditions and the freight being carried.

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