Cattle Council wants charging scheme to reflect road use

Lobby group urges NTC to reconsider charging proposal and ask transport ministers to support higher fuel excise for lower registration

By Brad Gardner | February 9, 2012

The National Transport Commission is being urged to reconsider its heavy vehicle charges proposal and ask transport ministers to support a higher fuel excise in return for lower registration fees.

The Cattle Council of Australia wants governments to recoup more revenue from the fuel excise to reflect actual road use and ease the cost burden on low mileage operators, particularly those with A-trailers.

Revenue is currently split 60:40 in favour of the fuel excise, but the Cattle Council wants the figure increased to 66 percent, with revenue for registration falling to 34 percent.

"Moving heavy vehicle charges away from fixed costs (registration) to variable costs (fuel) would more accurately reflect actual road use," the Cattle Council says in a written submission to the NTC.

"The reduced registration fees, balanced by an increased road user charge, mean that overall charges become a more accurate reflection of road use and the penalty for low mileage operators is reduced."

The Council says the seasonal nature of livestock transport means operators need to keep excess equipment registered to respond to peak movement periods.

"This need for surplus capacity means that registration charges have a greater impact on cattle transport than fuel charges when compared with regular goods transport that can average high registration charges over much greater mileage," it says.

The NTC has proposed sticking with the same revenue split but using a new cost formula to calculate charges. Its recommendation is designed to reduce the high cost of registering A-trailers, which industry claims acts as a disincentive to use B-doubles and B-triples.

The NTC listed changing the revenue split to 66:34 as an alternative and providing a discount for B-triples using unsealed roads.

Under one scenario modelled using the 66:34 split, the cost of registering a tri-axle A-trailer would fall from $6525 to $3948. The road user charge would increase from 22.6 cents to 24 cents per litre.

Another scenario reduced the cost of a tri-axle A-trailer to $3207, with the road user charge increasing to 25.2 cents per litre.

In its discussion paper outlining its preferred approach and three alternative charging methods, the NTC listed changing the revenue split as "an attractive option" that could be seen as a positive step toward direct pricing.

Unless transport ministers agree to one of the NTC’s proposals, heavy vehicle charges are due to rise by 5.4 percent across the board on July 1.

The figure rises to 6.7 percent if ministers include the cost of repair work to road infrastructure following severe flooding in 2011.The NTC has recommended governments exclude the cost of reconstruction work.

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