Truck charges a blueprint for wholesale reform: AAA


Motoring body wants heavy vehicle pricing reform to act as a blueprint for wholesale change for all road users

By Brad Gardner | October 18, 2010

Heavy vehicle road pricing reform should act as a blueprint for sweeping changes to existing fees for all motorists, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) says.

The AAA wants governments to use the trucking industry as the starting point for a new system of road charges that abolishes the existing structure of fixed registration fees and fuel excise in favour of a user-pays model.

Made up of the country’s leading motoring associations, the AAA wants the industry and motorists billed based on their road use.

The group is also adamant any reform must include social costs such as crashes, congestion, noise and air pollution and vehicle emissions.

"Road user charging should be implemented across all road users to ensure a fair and equitable road charging mechanism," the group writes in a submission to the National Transport Commission, which is investigating possible reforms.

"AAA is envisaging a strong blueprint for heavy vehicle pricing reform which will provide a starting point to develop a broader user-pays road pricing mechanism for all road users."

The existing system has been criticised because all motorists must pay the same fee even though their use of the road network varies.

Any reform must be made up of an access charge and a user charge, the AAA says.

"The access charge would be minimal and reflect the costs of vehicle registration for security and additional cost that could not be recovered through a user charge," it says.

"The user charge would consist of a road wear charge and a charge to cover the social costs of road use such as crashes, air and noise pollution, greenhouse gases and congestion."

While COAG is examining the feasibility of mass-distance-location (MDL) charging for heavy vehicles, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is lobbying hard for a fuel-based scheme.

Similar to the AAA’s proposal, the ATA’s model is made up of an access charge and a user charge.

The ATA recommends a flat registration fee for trucks and trailers, with most revenue collected through fuel use.

It argues that fuel charging will create a user-pays system because those who use more of the road network will pay for it in terms of higher fuel bills.

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

In its submission to the NTC, the AAA claims trucks are not paying enough for road use.

"Since trucks only pay half the excise that motorists do it is evident that private motorists are paying an inequitable amount for their road use," the group says.

Furthermore, the AAA suggests reforming road expenditure allocation so that revenue is linked to the applicable government.

"The road owners do not receive economic rewards from road investment. As a result, road investment is largely determined by the competition for the use of tax revenues rather than efficiency criteria," it says.

The NTC is currently looking at five alternatives to the existing charging process, including MDL.

If introduced, MDL will charge trucking operators based on the weight of the load, how far a truck travels and the roads it travels on. Vehicles will be monitored by GPS. Similar schemes have been introduced in Europe.

The AAA's membership includes the NRMA, RACQ and RACV.


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