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SARTA takes its corner in charges stoush

Steve Shearer says the industry will fight tooth and nail against a proposed freight network charge


South Australian truck drivers are planning a long-haul fight against a “stealth” plan to introduce a freight network charge for all heavy vehicles using any of the state’s roads.

SA Road Transport Association (SARTA) executive director Steve Shearer says the surprise announcement by premier Jay Weatherill represents an unprecedented attempt to gouge more from the trucking industry and community.

He says the state government is already collecting more from the trucking industry than it should.

The PAYGO methodology for calculating the infrastructure costs of heavy vehicles is based on out-of-date data, he says, resulting in a 9.1 per cent overpayment ($271 million) by the national industry last financial year alone.

This money, collected largely through fuel excise charges, is distributed back to the states by the federal government.

“The premier must, or should, know that his proposed freight network charges would only make that overcharging worse,” Shearer says.

“[He] should publicly guarantee that any proposed freight network charge will not increase charges on trucking and that he will end the current overcharging of the trucking industry immediately.”

Such a statement seems unlikely to happen soon.

Rather, the state government has continued to spruik the freight network charge since announcing it as part of a number of economic reforms on Sunday.

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan spoke in favour of the plan on ABC Radio covering North and West SA on yesterday.

Shearer reiterates the industry’s call for tolling to help fund new infrastructure projects, including the planned upgrade of South Road through inner-city Adelaide.

He says road-specific tolls were very different to a general freight network charge, which would affect every truck regardless of whether it was able to take advantage of the funded project.

“The premier seems to be arguing that the truck industry has called for tolls, and all he is doing is proposing a smarter way [to raise the same amount of funds] when he must, or should, know that that is simply untrue,” Shearer says.

He says SARTA and the industry will fight “tooth and nail” to prevent the freight networking charge from becoming a reality.

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