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NatRoad puts five-point Covid plan to governments

Clark claps good start while also seeking Paygo road-tax relief from NTC

 

The National Road Transport Association’s (NatRoad’s) welcome to National Cabinet’s acceptance of streamlined Covid-19 measures for road freight comes with an important caveat – there’s much more still to do.

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark observed that it was encouraging to see that National Cabinet listening to industry after determined lobbying.

“But throughout the pandemic, states and territories have said one thing and consistently done another,” Clark said.

“NatRoad wrote to state ministers last week in the lead up to the National Cabinet meeting and put forward a Five Point Plan to make the movement of road freight safer and more efficient.”

“Those practical ideas came from NatRoad members.

“Some of them appear to have been taken on but the fundamental problem of inconsistency remains.

“For example, freight drivers crossing to and from Queensland and New South Wales need proof of a negative Covid-19 test in a rolling seven-day period, but South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia still have different rules.”

Clark noted that NatRoad strongly supports policies that suppress Covid-19, make the community safer and drive up vaccination rates, “but we also want measures that allow essential industries to continue operating”.

“I acknowledge that New South Wales and Queensland have provided leadership in areas such as opening dedicated testing facilities for heavy vehicles,” he said.

“But let’s ensure all centres can open 24-hours wherever demand requires it and let’s prioritise results for heavy vehicle operators.

“It’s in the national interest to keep road freight moving so Australians can continue to see essential goods on their supermarket and pharmacy shelves.”

 NatRoad’s Five Point Plan seeks national adoption of these principles:

  • States and Territories agree on a consistent system of passes and adoption of QR code-based contact tracking systems that are the same for each State and Territory
  • All states and territories follow the National Freight Protocol of evidence that a Covid-19 test has been carried out within a period no less than seven days since the time of arrival into a state or territory and not exceeding a rolling 14 days for heavy vehicle operators
  • Establish 24-hour testing facilities at or near each border crossing point, at driver changeover points on interstate highways and in major metropolitan centres that give access to road freight operators and their vehicles
  • Diagnostic testing of samples for heavy vehicle operators be given priority where possible, reflecting the industry’s status as an essential service
  • Major highways at border points include a dedicated truck lane wherever practical, separated from motor vehicles and allowing movement of heavy vehicles whose drivers have appropriate passes.

 


Read Warren Clark’s plea for Covid consistency at borders, here


Meanwhile, NatRoad  is asking the National Transport Commission (NTC) to give the industry some relief from increased heavy vehicle charges next year.

In its submission to the Commission’s Heavy Vehicle Charges consultation process, NatRoad said that the pay-as-you-go (Paygo) model is broken and truck operators cannot afford to be slugged by another increase in registration and road user charges.

“NatRoad strongly believes that road charging reform must take into account all road users and provide a better, more equitable system for paying for the costs of road construction,” Clark noted.

“Until the Heavy Vehicle Road Reform [HVRR] process is implemented, we support a fixed price increase of 3.5% or CPI increase – whichever is lower.

“Our industry has suffered from the impact of bush fires, floods and now Covid-19, as acknowledged by transport ministers.

“These events and difficult industry conditions have constrained the industry’s ability to cope with increased costs, inclusive of government charges.

“The Paygo model for heavy vehicle charges should only be used as a 2021-22 baseline on which to calculate future HV charges.”

Clark noted that Paygo assumed that all Australia’s roads are sealed when most are not.

“It operates to include all costs incurred in one year in the next year’s charges,” he said.

“Capital and current costs are not separated.

“And it results in payments flowing to states and territories that do not take into account the real cost recovery need for road construction and maintenance as that is related to heavy vehicle usage.

“A new model is needed to underpin the HVRR process.

“In the meantime, a fixed price increase is a better outcome than the application of the Paygo or alternative models.”

 

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