Fletcher unveils truck charges pilot program


National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot to test national direct user charge

Fletcher unveils truck charges pilot program
Paul Fletcher says industry to shape the reform

 

The federal government is seeking a collaborative approach with the trucking industry as it seeks to advance heavy vehicle charging reforms.

The effort sees urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher unveiling its National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot program to test the replacement of registration fees and the fuel-based Road User Charge, with a national direct user charge for the participating vehicles.

The pilot trials have three main objectives:

  • demonstrate that direct user charging for heavy vehicles is feasible and has benefits for users and governments
  • build stakeholder confidence in and practical engagement with Heavy Vehicle Road Reform.
  • provide opportunities to identify and address operational issues to inform future implementation decisions.

"The program will run initially through to 2020 and will allow heavy vehicle operators to test, influence and shape a fairer system," Fletcher says.

"It is a real opportunity for industry to shape the reform."

The first two stages of the pilot will be research-based, focusing on "working with the heavy vehicle industry to develop the options to pilot. It will not involve participants paying additional or alternative charges as part of the trial".

Canberra also aims to establish a business-case program for location-based trials of distance charging for heavy vehicles.

Under this program, to begin in 2018-19, the government says it will fund business cases for trials in specific geographical regions, where there may be an appetite by the heavy vehicle industry to agree to additional per-kilometre charges, over and above what they are paying through the fuel excise system, where those charges are linked to specific benefits to the heavy vehicle industry.

"Reform of heavy vehicle user charging has the potential to deliver substantial net benefits for the Australian economy, estimated to be between $8 billion and $22 billion over 20 years," Fletcher says. 

More information can be found here.

An early positive reaction comes from New Zealand-headquartered electronic road charging firm Eroad.

"These announcements demonstrate a clear pathway and timetable towards a potential sustainable distance-based heavy vehicle road charging mechanism," Eroad chairman Michael Bushby says.

"The adoption of electric vehicles in the freight sector is moving faster than forecasted and Tesla’s announcement that it will bring its electric semi-truck to market in 2019 further drives the need for all heavy vehicles to be contributing to the funding for road infrastructure."

Bushby adds Eroad would be pleased to assist the Australian Government with both the National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot and local heavy vehicle trials, and to demonstrate the heavy vehicle charging methods implemented in other jurisdictions.

"We are well positioned to help on a strategic or operational level, bringing our experience in successfully deploying heavy vehicle road charging in Oregon and New Zealand, and in the recent California Road Charge Pilot," he says.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) backs the move.

"This announcement represents progress on a reform which ALC and many in the freight logistics industry have long supported as vital to improving the efficiency of our road networks and freight movement," ALC MD  Michael Kilgariff says.

The ALC believes the current PAYGO system, which relies on a mix of registration fees and fuel taxes to fund road infrastructure, is no longer fit for purpose, with Kilgariff describing them as "blunt instruments are insufficiently dynamic to properly align the needs of road users, the road charges they pay and investment in road infrastructure".

"For many road transport operators, PAYGO represents an analogue approach to an increasingly digital transport world," Kilgariff says.

"The national economic benefits of Heavy Vehicle Road Reform are considerable, with estimates ranging from $8 billion to $22 billion over 20 years. That’s why it is important to get the National Pilot right, so that industry has confidence it will share in these benefits.

"Accordingly, ALC welcomes the Government’s confirmation of the core principle underpinning this trial – that the productivity benefits of any new system will exceed the cost of any additional charges. Industry support will rely on this principle being upheld."

More to come

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