Concern for small truckers sparks call for assistance

ATA wants funding to help truckers prepare for carbon tax and talks up possible environmental module for TruckSafe

Concern for small truckers sparks call for assistance
Concern for small truckers sparks call for assistance

By Brad Gardner | December 9, 2011

The trucking lobby wants changes to a scheme aimed at helping businesses prepare for the carbon tax, fearing small operators might be lumped with price increases under the current approach.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has written to the Department of Climate Change urging it to alter its Energy Efficiency Information Grants scheme.

ATA Government Relations Manager Bill McKinley says the $40 million initiative is largely focused on promoting energy efficiency but trucking businesses will need information on negotiating contracts under a carbon tax and how to adjust fuel levies.

Under the ATA’s proposal, its member associations would be able to run seminars and workshops on business practices to ensure small trucking operators are equipped with the tools to pass on cost increases.

ATA CEO Stuart St Clair says sections of the industry are currently limited in their ability to pass on costs due to existing contract arrangements and a lack of market power.

"Many trucking businesses are locked into long term contracts. Small trucking businesses often feel forced to accept the rates they are offered, even if the terms are unfavourable," he says.

The ATA wants the grants to cover the cost of producing fact sheets, video and audio, web tools and workshop material to build awareness of the carbon tax and how to respond to it.

It has also suggested the government permit industry associations to access funding for designing energy efficiency standards and audit tools for new or existing accreditation programmes.

McKinley says such a measure could make it possible to create a TruckSafe-like accreditation programme for environmental standards or to slot an environmental module into the existing scheme.

"Conceivably, TruckSafe could include an environmental module at some point in the future for businesses that want to demonstrate a high level of environmental compliance and a high level of environmental commitment," he says.

"It could be a new programme as well."

McKinley says one-off approaches such as handing out fact sheets might change behaviour in the short-term, but business standards will gradually slip over time in the absence of auditing.

"The answer is have an audited programme where you have to put systems in place and a third party comes in and says, ‘Well you’re slipping a bit, you’ve got to do better’ or, ‘You’re doing really well’," he says.

McKinley says the grants scheme needs to be structured so industry associations will be eligible to run the training courses they need to.

"What we are doing in making this submission is endeavouring to make sure the eligibility criteria enable any industry association in the trucking space to run the programmes that we think are necessary to support trucking businesses," he says.

Although the industry will not be directly hit with the tax until July 1, 2014, McKinley says it needs to prepare for cost increases when it starts next financial year.

As reported by ATN, Bass Strait ferry operator TT-Line will decide in February whether to charge trucking operators extra to cover the cost of the carbon tax.

"Many trucking businesses are locked into long term contracts and can’t change prices easily in the short term. If you’ve got a contract with a retailer, for example, they’re going to want you to take the fuel price risk because they want to have stable prices for their customers," McKinley says.

The Energy Efficiency Information Grants scheme is due to begin in early 2012 and run for four years. The government says industry associations and non-profit groups will be able to apply for funding to inform small and medium enterprises and community organisations about the carbon tax.

The trucking industry will pay the tax through a reduction of 6.85 cents in the fuel tax credit, which will continue to decline as the cost of carbon increases.

The carbon tax will be set at $23 per tonne when it begins, rising to $24.15 the following year and $25.40 in 2014. It is designed to shift to an emissions trading scheme in 2015.

According to the ATA, the price rise will cost the industry and its customers $510 million in the 2014-15 financial year.

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