ATA rejects road charges amid calls for A-trailer reforms

ATA refuses to support proposed 2.4 percent increase to truck charges and wants A-trailer fees reformed

ATA rejects road charges amid calls for A-trailer reforms
ATA rejects road charges amid calls for A-trailer reforms
By Brad Gardner | March 28, 2011

The truck lobby has again called for greater transparency on heavy vehicle charges amid a plea for governments to reform A-trailer fees to help struggling operators.

In its response to the National Transport Commission’s proposed 2.4 percent increase to the road user charge and heavy vehicle registration fees, the Australian Trucking Association claims governments are recovering too much from the industry.

It has refused to support the latest increase and wants any future increases to be announced six months in advance to give industry more time to adjust.

The ATA says the model used to determine increases is insufficient because it does not account for the changing nature of the trucking task. The NTC last year was forced to alter its charging formula because it failed to factor in the rise in the use of B-doubles.

"As the economy and the freight task continue to grow, the current heavy vehicle fleet will consistently be greater than the historical figures used in the adjustment, and without change the over-recovery will continue," the ATA says in its written submission to the NTC.

The increases, which will reduce the fuel tax credit from 15.54 to 15.04 cents per litre, are due to take effect on July 1.

"The timing factor is the greatest concern for the road user charge, as this affects all operators on the same day. Operators and business management processes require at least six months’ notice of change from the time the decision is made," the ATA says.

Seizing on industry unrest over the high cost of registering A-trailers, the ATA wants governments to look at winding back the A-trailer fee, which currently is $6,372.

It has also recommended allowing operators to pay part-year registrations without being penalised for doing so and for concessional registrations for road trains permanently using A-trailers.

According to the ATA, current fees are acting as a disincentive to use the more productive B-double combinations, raising productivity and safety implications because more vehicles are needed to complete the freight task.

"Having more single configuration heavy vehicles undertaking the nation’s growing freight task is a severe productivity setback. This increased exposure risk contributes to additional environmental and safety impacts. Further, there are compliance and enforcement concerns associated with this," the ATA says.

Citing the results of a survey it ran on A-trailers, the ATA says 97 percent of respondents could not increase freight rates to compensate them for higher registration fees.

"Unlike the road user charge which is simply recovered in the fuel levy component of the contract, the cost of registration charges is not easily recovered through business contracts," the ATA says.

In its submission, the ATA says many operators do not use their A-trailers for the full year. It says operators are discouraged from using seasonal registration due to the additional paperwork and higher charges involved.

"Initial action could be taken to address this issue while more long term arrangements can be established," the ATA says.

It has listed low mileage discounts for operators, particularly rural carriers which have community service obligations. Governments are also being asked to look at single registration for a range of trailers.

The ATA has also called for strict expenditure measures to be introduced to ensure the trucking industry is not slugged with the bill for repairing roads and infrastructure damaged in the summer floods.

"Expenditure related to reconstructing or rehabilitating roads, due to weathering effects, and not heavy vehicle use, currently is not, and should not, be used in heavy vehicle charges calculations," the submission says.

The ATA fears "double-dipping by governments" if the cost of repair work is recovered through the flood levy and included in road expenditure data.

"As expenditure rolls out, state governments should be instructed to not include flood related expenditure in the annual expenditure reports," the ATA says.

"Road user charges are based on heavy vehicle road use – flood related expenditure will not relate to this. Including this expenditure in the charging calculations will leave heavy vehicles with higher charge rates for years to come."

The NTC says the 2.4 increase to heavy vehicle charges is necessary to recoup the rise in government expenditure on the road network.

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