NTC sent back to drawing board on A-trailers

Transport ministers reject NTC proposal on A-trailers, with claims it failed to address ways to reduce high registration fees

NTC sent back to drawing board on A-trailers
NTC sent back to drawing board on A-trailers

By Brad Gardner | November 8, 2011

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has been sent back to the drawing board on A-trailer registration charges after transport ministers rejected its proposal aimed at lowering fees.

The Standing Committee on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI) last week dismissed the NTC’s recommendations, which ATN understands involved increasing charges on other combinations to subsidise cuts to A-trailer fees.

While declining to divulge details of the confidential document, a spokeswoman for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says it failed to meet ministers’ expectations.

"It didn’t address any of the key issues or any of the problems so they’ve been asked to do it again and come up with something that will solve it," she says.

The NTC has been given a deadline of February next year to come up with a proposal to bring down the annual price of the trailer, which has exceeded $6,500. The trucking industry is pushing for a solution by July 1 next year, but ATN understands the NTC told ministers its plan would not be ready until sometime in the second half of 2012.

ATN further understands the proposal for the NTC to report back in February came from Albanese and received strong support from all jurisdictions, particularly South Australia and NSW.

"They all wanted a solution, they all wanted it in a hurry and they didn’t think they were being given it," one source involved in the SCOTI meeting says.

In a statement released today, the NTC says it provided various options to ministers and that it gave industry confidential briefings on the proposals.

"Ministers have not approved any of the options at this stage. Ministers have requested that the NTC undertake further analysis of the options, which will be presented to SCOTI in February 2012 for approval," the NTC says.

"Ministers have recognised the urgency of addressing this issue and are eager to take action as quickly as possible."

The NTC says it will continue to work closely with government and industry representatives during the process. A working group was established earlier this year to address A-trailer charges and multiple meetings were held prior to a proposal going to ministers.

Based on feedback it received during its investigations throughout May and June, the NTC says operators raised concerns over an inability to recoup the cost of A-trailer registration fees. Operators using B-doubles and B-triples also complained of difficulty in competing with road trains.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) has been advocating for changes to A-trailer charges since early this year.

ALRTA Executive Director Philip Halton says the high registration costs are particularly hard on bush operators who only use the B-double combination sporadically. The ALRTA wants governments to consider seasonal registration, low mileage discounts and specialised classifications for stock crates and grain tippers.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has warned of "a severe productivity setback" unless something is done, claiming B-double operators will switch to semi-trailers to reduce their costs.

The ATA in August suggested charging the owners of pig, dog, semi, converter dolly and low loader dolly trailers more to fund a $4,242 reduction in A-trailers.

The group called for a $106 increase in tandem axle trailers, with the price rising to $159 for tri-axle units and $212 for quad axle and above.

Under its proposal, the cost of registering an A-trailer will fall to $2,283, dropping the cost of getting a nine-axle B-double on the road from $15,708 to $10,602.

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