Huge trucking industry welcome for road charge freeze


Depth of industry feeling on move seen in tenor and breadth of responses

Huge trucking industry welcome for road charge freeze
Road user charge will stay at 25.8 cents per litre for diesel in 2020-21

 

The trucking industry at federal and state levels is responding in unison to the news of a year’s backdown on the heavy vehicle road user charge (RUC) increase.

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chair Geoff Crouch says the decision recognised that "2020 is not the time to increase taxes on the businesses delivering Australia’s essential food, medicine and other goods.

"As a result of the pandemic, Australia is likely to experience the biggest contraction in national output and income since the Great Depression," Crouch adds.

"Australia’s 50,000 trucking businesses simply could not afford to pay more in taxes and charges.

"The Australian government has listened to what our members are saying and have acted. We applaud the deputy prime minister’s leadership on this issue."

Crouch said the ATA and its network of member associations had taken a united and effective approach to lobbying on the issue.

"In November 2019, ministers rejected officials’ advice that truck taxes and charges should increase 11.4 per cent, after the ATA and member association representatives briefed them on the cost and demand pressures faced by trucking businesses," he continues.

"Ministers then identified a preference for two increases of 2.5 per cent, but this was before the double hit of the bushfires and the epidemic."

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) also has warm words for the ministers but is looking for other governments to make similar moves.

"This is a win for our industry and NatRoad is pleased that our participation in negotiating this freeze has come to fruition," CEO Warren Clark says.

"The next step is for states and territories to either freeze or reduce the burdensome heavy vehicle registration charges which are also due to rise by 2.5 per cent from 1 July 2020.

"Natroad is committed to helping its members every inch of the way in the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, advocating for change where appropriate.

"We need to remain agile and adopt appropriate reforms during this period of uncertainty as CoviD-19 continues to affect the community.

"We will continue to press for changes that reduce members costs during these tough times, so that it can weather the virus-induced economic storm, and beyond it."

Over-taxed

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Australia (ALRTA) applauds the decision and thanks the ministers for championing "a sensible and pragmatic decision at a time when government revenue is also under threat".


Read how the industry approached Scott Buchholz on the issue, here


"The federal government decision to freeze the road user charge will keep road transport costs to a minimum over the next twelve months," ALRTA national president Stephen Marley says.

"This will in turn help support millions of Australian businesses and households during the Covid-19 recovery phase. An increased tax on trucks would have been an increased tax on everyone."

When the frozen hike was first mooted, the industry was quick to point out that it would exacerbate an existing unfairness, a point Marley touches on while adding his voice to the call for state and territory government action.

"During the period 2014-2019 our industry was over charged more than $1 billion," he says.

"If ever there was a time to rebuild trust by giving some of it back, now is that time.

"The federal government decision to freeze the road user charge should be a wake-up call to state governments who are still considering a 2.5 percent increase in heavy vehicle registration charges to apply from 1 July 2020."  

"I call on all state governments to similarly freeze heavy vehicle registration charges."

Value of advocacy

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) also points to the value in concerted campaigning in shaping government appreciation of the industry’s position and value.

"I am very pleased to advise that the advocacy work invested to obtain Covid-19 financial relief for the industry has paid off with this early morning announcement," QTA CEO Gary Mahon says.

Mahon notes the move "is in addition to a significant win that started back in October with the state associations along with the ATA who carefully constructing an argument to the ministers with a case for industry on the impact of the proposed increase to the RUC. 

"The result of this advocacy was an announcement of less than half the original percentage proposed which was an 11.8 per cent increase over three years. 

"The compromise was a 2.5 per cent increase – equivalent to federal CPI – over two years that was to commence in July as now been deferred by 12 months. 

"The federal government should be congratulated for arriving at this decision along with all the state governments and territories who agreed that deferring the increase to the RUC will make an important difference to the bottom line of fleet operators and help keep people employed in the industry during this difficult time."   

Mahon points out that there are other issues at stake in response to the pandemic.

"We will continue to advocate the cause on your behalf for reduction in the 30 per cent JobKeeper threshold which is too high for the road freight industry," he tells members. 

"We provided case study modelling to government with evidence to indicate that many will be forced to cease operations before getting anywhere near a 30 per cent downturn." 

Common sense

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) sees the move as a victory for logical and wise thinking.

"We applaud this common sense decision by the Commonwealth to cancel its proposed increase to the road user charge, which will relieve pressure on transport operators that have already been hit hard by the economic impacts of Covid-19 on the industry and the broader economy," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"The Commonwealth government and transport ministers in every state and territory have listened in good faith to the concerns of the industry about what higher taxes would mean and we thank them for putting the economic interests of transport operators ahead of the needs of treasury."

There was support, too, from the suppliers’ side of the industry.

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA)  chief executive Todd Hacking says the move is another positive outcome from the collaborative work led by the Government with industry.

"Throughout this crisis the deputy prime minister Michael McCormack and assistant minister for road safety Scott Buchholz have made themselves available to listen to industry and work through every scenario to protect our industry," Hacking says.

"The freeze of the road user charge will provide some relief for operators, but even more importantly clarity for their contracts with their customers. 

"In turn, we hope that level of assuredness will help our members."

 

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