Rigids to offset reduction in A-trailer fees

NTC recommends cutting B-double and B-triple registration costs, but prices for other combinations to increase to offset reductions

Rigids to offset reduction in A-trailer fees
Rigids to offset reduction in A-trailer fees

By Brad Gardner | January 17, 2011

The price of registering A-trailers is set to fall under a proposal that aids B-double operators but slugs owners of other combinations with higher prices.

In its latest heavy vehicle charging recommendation, the National Transport Commission (NTC) wants governments to give with one hand and take with the other to address industry concerns over high A-trailer fees.

Currently out for consultation, an NTC discussion paper recommends lowering the annual price-tag of a tri-axle A-trailer from $6525 to $3480, with the tandem axle unit falling $3033 to $3162.

If transport ministers accept the NTC’s preferred option, the price of keeping a nine-axle B-double registered annually will fall to $13,404, while B-triples will drop to $16,883. A B-double currently costs $15,708 to register, with the B-triple combination setting operators back $22,233.

But to ensure the states and territories do not lose any revenue, the NTC wants to increase charges elsewhere, including on prime movers and raising the charges for a standard trailer axle, road train dolly trailer and a semi-trailer tri-axle by more than $100 each.

The road user charge will rise by an extra 0.7 cents to 23.3 cents a litre.

The proposed changes are due to begin on July 1 and will also have a significant effect on rigid trucks over 12 tonnes.

Depending on the configuration, the price of registering rigids will increase between $350 and almost $2000. A four-axle rigid truck over 25 tonnes with no trailer, for instance, will jump from $945 to $2903 under the NTC’s preferred method.

"There’s always a trade-off. When something goes down, something has to go up," the NTC’s chief policy officer Meena Naidu says.

She says it is important governments continue to maintain revenue levels under the proposal. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has also decreed the trucking industry must pay its share of infrastructure costs.

The road user charge and registration fees are adjusted annually to account for government expenditure on road projects.

"Governments are spending more on roads and bridges. There are a lot of budgetary pressures and having that certainty of funding coming in also helps to protect the maintenance and investment program going forward," Naidu says.

Double and triple road train operators haven’t been spared, with the NTC recommending registration charges increase by $1280 and $1819 respectively. If approved, the NTC's proposal will increase the cost of registering a semi-trailer combination to $6301.

The price of registering A-trailers has risen significantly since governments removed the subsidy on B-doubles as part of the 2007 agreement on heavy vehicle charges.

"Historically B-doubles benefited from significant discounts. This was justified on the basis that the B-double was a much safer and more productive vehicle and should therefore be encouraged," the NTC says.

With warnings the cost of registering A-trailers was sending operators broke and forcing some to revert to less productive configurations, industry groups and trucking operators last year lobbied policy makers to reduce fees.

The NTC is currently receiving feedback from industry about the proposal, which is due to be finalised in February before being sent to transport ministers to vote on.

"We’re keen to ensure that the charging model that is in place doesn’t penalise industry for using safer and more efficient vehicles such as B-triples," NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos says.

Click here to access the discussion paper outlining the NTC’s preferred approach and a table of charges.

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