Road user cost and current investment not linked: PC report

Heavy vehicle access improvements, NHVR review, no fixed rates among Productivity Commission recommendations

Road user cost and current investment not linked: PC report
The report calls for improved understanding of road user needs to streamline regulatory variations.


The current road funding model fails to link the cost of road use with road investment, a Productivity Commission report states.

A direct road user charging system that is "more cost-reflective" can result in a "more sustainable revenue" base to cover road expenditures and remove the heavy vehicle access restrictions, the report suggests.

The recommendation is part of Productivity Commission’s farming report, Regulation of Agriculture that highlights road- and vehicle-related ordinances that challenge productivity and efficiency in agricultural transport.

The Commission’s report highlights concerns raised by the farming community related to heavy vehicle restrictions and road issues, and makes recommendations for improvements.

The report states that the current regulatory mechanism across states and territories is complex and inhibiting.

Some of the common concerns raised by farm businesses include:

  • "inconsistent heavy vehicle regulation between jurisdictions
  • restrictions on access to the road network, especially on local roads at the start and end of a journey
  • processing times for road access permits                                                   
  • restrictions on moving oversized agricultural machinery".

The Productivity Commission recommends reduced red tape on transport of agricultural goods through more "streamlined and simplified" regulatory framework, with focus on permit issues related to road access, transport and use of machinery, and vehicle licensing.

It also recommends a direct road user charging mechanism that covers road spending and removing access restrictions on heavy vehicles.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has been advocating the need for an independent pricing regulator that can impose pricing decesions.

The reports states that farming transport can be given greater flexibility without compromising the safety of other road users by:

  • either removing the need for permits by making greater use of gazettal notices
  • or issuing permits for longer durations or for multiple journeys.

Road user needs

Feedback from farmers across states and territories revealed that inconsistent regulatory prerequisites make it difficult for them to understand their obligations and add to the cost of doing business.

The reports states that it is important to create a better understanding of road user needs to remove "unnecessary restrictions and variations" across different jurisdictions.

The reports states that "differences across the road network lead to increased compliance costs for producers, such as costly changes to vehicle configurations and loads to meet different requirements.

"More should be done to reduce unnecessary restrictions and variations across the road network while still achieving amenity objectives and addressing risks to public safety and infrastructure.

"This requires building a better understanding of road user needs."

NHVR scrutiny

The report acknowledges the benefits of Heavy Vehicle National Law (NHVL) and the setting up the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) as a "step in the right direction".

It recommends periodic reviews of NHVR to determine whether the resources redirected from the abolished Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) are being used effectively, and whether responsibilities are properly assigned under the national system.

It also suggests participating states and territories to "increase the number of road routes that are gazetted for heavy vehicle access" by:

  • allowing industry to undertake road route assessments for gazettal, as in South Australia
  • directly funding assessments of state and local roads, as in Queensland.

Minimum rates for transport

The Commission notes the drawbacks of fixed rate regime in heavy vehicle transport, a statement welcomed by the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad).

It states that the abolition of the RSRT and its minimum rates order has reduced another "burden" of regulation from the agricultural transport sector.

The report states that RSRT had significant overlaps with other heavy vehicle safety regulations, and showed no direct link between road safety and remuneration.

Costal shipping laws

The Productivity Commission’s report states that the current practice of giving local cargo ships preference to transport domestic freight between Australian ports increases costs for farming businesses that are dependent on sea freight.

It recommends increasing competition to drive down costs.

"To increase competition in coastal waters, coastal shipping laws should be amended to substantially reduce barriers to entry for foreign vessels," it states.

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