Heavy vehicle road user charging trials to begin


Initial trial to involve 11 operators and up to 111 vehicles

Heavy vehicle road user charging trials to begin
Crouch and McCormack

 

The first in a series of on-road trials designed to test potential direct road user charging options for heavy vehicles will start this month, the federal government has announced.

In a partnership between government and the heavy vehicle industry, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack says that while no decisions have been made to change the way heavy vehicle charges are currently collected, the first stage of the National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot will provide a way to test potential alternatives, well ahead of any decisions being taken.

"The heavy vehicle on-road trials will be delivered as part of broader Heavy Vehicle Road Reform, which is about creating stronger links between road usage, charges and services for road users," McCormack says.

"The Government will continue to prioritise progress on reforms to improve infrastructure investment, while testing alternative options to replace heavy vehicle registration fees and fuel-based charges.

"Decisions to implement a new way of collecting heavy vehicle charges may be part of a potential future stage of Heavy Vehicle Road Reform. These decisions are likely to be a number years away and will take on board the real-life experience of industry following a full evaluation of the trials.

"In progressing this reform, the Australian Government will retain a focus on making sure regional roads get a fair share of investment. I encourage operators of all sizes across the sector, particularly those from regional areas to be involved in the trials."


Read last year's RIS on heavy vehicle road-user charging, here


Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz says the initial Small Scale On-Road Trial will not involve payment of charges and will assess an alternative form of heavy vehicle charging using mock invoices generated by on-board technology that measures the distance travelled by heavy vehicles.

"The trial will involve partnerships with up to 11 heavy vehicle operators of various sizes, totalling up to 111 vehicles," Buchholz says.

Planning is also underway for a Large Scale On-Road Trial, the next stage of the National Pilot which will take place during 2020.

Up to 100 businesses and 1,000 heavy vehicles are expected to be involved in this trial. It will not involve payment of charges and will test a wider range of alternative charging approaches.

Stakeholder engagement will continue during evaluation of the Small Scale On-Road Trial and planning for the Large Scale On-Road Trial. A recruitment campaign for the Large Scale On-Road Trial will begin over the coming months.

ATA RESPONSE

Commenting on the announcement, ATA chair Geoff Crouch says governments need to focus the reform agenda on supply-side road-funding reforms.

"In November 2018 Transport Ministers agreed to develop nationally consistent service level standards for roads, to categorise roads by their functions and set customer-focussed service levels. This is intended to improve transparency and the evidence base for road funding decisions," Crouch says.

"This is a critical reform to deliver a more productive road freight network and something that the ATA has been a long-standing advocate for.

"As the Government takes the next step in considering change on heavy vehicle charges, they need to prioritise reforms on how roads are provided which is where the largest economic gains from reform will be found.

"We welcome the Government's commitment to prioritise progress on reforms to improve infrastructure investment."

Crouch adds that the ultimate test for the charging trials would be if they could demonstrate an overall net benefit for industry.

"If the charging trials can’t demonstrate an overall net benefit then governments should not implement a direct distance-based charging scheme.

"The proposed changes create a significant amount of cost, complexity and risk for Australia’s heavy vehicle transport industry (and its intermediate and end-state customers) and at a time that all of Australia’s supply chain sectors need to be striving for global leadership in long-term investment, sustainability, productivity and international competitiveness."

Further work is also needed before the next stage of large-scale trials can proceed, Crouch says.

"Direct distance-based charging is incredibly complex and it is not yet clear that the right framework in in place for next year’s proposed large-scale trial

"The Government should continue to engage and consult industry before launching the proposed large-scale trial.

"Ultimately, if governments don’t make real progress on supply side road funding reforms then there is no case for the charging trials to continue."

 

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