Changes needed to restore trust in truck charges process

ALRTA expresses concern about the process used for determining truck charges and calls for changes to restore industry confidence

Changes needed to restore trust in truck charges process
Controversy over truck charges drains industry confidence
September 19, 2012

Confidence in how heavy vehicles charges are determined is waning, warns the trucking lobby, which wants changes to give industry greater involvement in how operators are billed in future.

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) has used the recent Opposition attempt to overturn the 10.4 percent increase to the fuel excise to again push its case for representation on the Heavy Vehicle Charging and Investment (HVCI) board.

The HVCI is dominated by state and territory bureaucrats, and ALRTA President John Beer says industry needs to be given a seat at the table to improve trust, transparency and confidence on charges. The HVCI has been tasked with developing options to reform heavy vehicle charges, such as moving to a mass-distance-location pricing scheme.

Opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss earlier this week launched a blistering attack on the National Transport Commission (NTC), which did not consult the industry before claiming earlier this year trucking operators were not paying their way to the tune of $144 million.

"Confidence in the commonwealth, state and territory governments’ ability to manage and to reform the heavy vehicle road use charging system is now in doubt," Beer says.

"The lesson from this dramatic day in Parliament is surely that, like other major industries in Australia, the transport industry will not stand idly to one side when we feel we have been consulted poorly."

Beer wants business representatives, including at least one person with knowledge of rural and regional Australia, to join the HVCI independent chairman. Economist Meena Naidu, who led the the NTC's work on the latest round of heavy vehicle charges, is now the project director of the HVCI.

Truss says the NTC’s lack of consultation led to an unfair outcome for the nation’s operators, which are now paying 25.5 cents per litre in fuel excise.

"There should have been discussion with industry about whether or not there was indeed an under-recovery and, if so, how it should be addressed," Truss told Parliament on Monday.

"Either this was incompetence or it was deceit and dishonesty. Whatever name you give it, the reality is that the consultation process with the industry – a fundamental part of the way these charges are settled – was seriously flawed."

The 130 MPs who voted on Truss’s disallowance motion split evenly into the yes and no camps, forcing Deputy Speaker of the House Anna Burke to cast the deciding vote to uphold the existing law.

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