ATA to tackle mass-distance-location charging at tax forum


The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) will continue its campaign against mass-distance-location charging for trucks at next week’s tax forum, Chairman David Simon pledged today. <br /><br /> Simon will seek to drive home the message that such a system “could impose massive costs on rural Australia and would strangle trucking operators with red tape”. In its stead, Simon, who is a participant in the forum, will argue for the ATA’s preferred option of fuel-based charging.

ATA to tackle mass-distance-location charging at tax forum
ATA to tackle mass-distance-location charging at tax forum

By Rob McKay | September 30, 2011

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) will continue its campaign against mass-distance-location charging for trucks at next week’s tax forum, Chairman David Simon (pictured) pledged today.

Simon will seek to drive home the message that such a system "could impose massive costs on rural Australia and would strangle trucking operators with red tape".

In its stead, Simon, who is a participant in the forum, will argue for the ATA’s preferred option of fuel-based charging.

"This would collect the same amount of money as the existing system, but would see truck and trailer registration charges reduced to about $400," according to Simon.

"The effective fuel tax, or road user charge, would be increased to compensate for the reduction and would be levied on trucks at two separate rates, depending on their size.

"There would be a special fund so local councils and other road asset managers could upgrade their roads to handle safer trucks with greater capacity,"

In the short term, the ATA would seek to rebalance registration charges to remove the disadvantage faced by operators using B-doubles.

The position puts the ATA at loggerheads with the COAG Road Reform Plan (CRRP) is examining mass-distance-location charging.

The clash of preferred options was on display at the NatRoad conference in Townsville two in early August when Simon took CRRP Project Director Neil Aplin to task on the cost and complexity of mass-distance-location charging, which would see truck operators would be required to fit regulatory devices to their trucks.

Aplin had argued that the present system was dysfunctional and mass-distance-location charging would be part of a solution that would bring local councils, which control a huge majority of rural roads into the funding loop.

Simon remains unconvinced.

"The whole idea of mass-distance-location charging is to recover the cost of the road wear caused by trucks on each type of road. Because local rural roads are built to a much lighter standard than major highways, the charge for travelling on one of these roads could be twenty-five times higher than for using a highway like the Hume," he says.

"It would be a disaster for rural communities and the trucking businesses that serve them.

"In addition, the people arguing for mass-distance-location pricing have grossly underestimated the cost and complexity of rolling out the system, as well as the compliance costs that would be faced by trucking businesses. They have forgotten that 85 per cent of Australia’s 47,000 trucking businesses are small businesses and just don’t need more red tape.

"The costings they have used so far do not include the cost of running a billing system, which is an absolutely critical part of the proposal.

"Overall, mass-distance-location charging comprehensively fails the simplicity test that should be used to judge tax reform proposals.

"It is the trucking industry equivalent of fitting a tax office monitoring device in every computer in every accountant’s office.

"The Government should rule it out now."

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