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Transition to new charging regime unashamed money grab

ATA supports shift to new heavy vehicle charging scheme, but decries NTC proposal to phase it in.

A proposal to transition trucking to a new charging framework would represent “an unashamed money grab”, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) claims.

The lobby group’s response to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) paper on possible changes to heavy vehicle charges supports a higher fuel excise in return for lower registration fees, but criticises the proposal on how governments should go about implementing the reform.  

In its written submission to the NTC, the ATA backs the commission’s proposal to raise 71.7 per cent of revenue from excise and 28.3 per cent of revenue from fixed registration fees – dubbed ‘Option B’. But unlike the NTC, the ATA wants the system fully implemented by July 1, 2015.

The NTC recommends any changes be gradually introduced from July 1 this year and implemented from July 1, 2016 to reduce the financial impact on government coffers. However, the transition is expected to cost the trucking industry almost $200 million.

“If states and the commonwealth agree to a three year transition it is an unashamed money grab from the heavy vehicle industry in moving to a system that unfairly favours state treasuries to a fair system of charges for industry to pay for its road impact costs,” the ATA says in its written response to the NTC.

The NTC estimates the industry will pay an extra $117.2 million in registration fees and $82.5 million in fuel excise under a transition.

Under the ATA’s preferred approach, governments will implement improvements to the charging formula (Option A) on July 1 this year and then switch to the 71.3/28.3 funding split (Option B) the following the year.

“The ATA supports a higher reliance on variable charges than a large fixed fee,” the ATA submission states.

The ATA says a greater reliance on the fuel excise reduces the burden of large fixed registration fees operators currently pay.

“It also promotes paying for use, as fuel burn is a proxy for mass, distance and road condition. Fuel consumption increases with increased combination mass and distance travelled,” it says.

The submission also supports axle group charging for trailers and goes on to claim the industry will be over-charged by more than $800 million in the 2013-2014 financial year.

Furthermore, the ATA has opposed the cost of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) being added to the industry’s annual fees.

It says it asked the NHVR to provide information to verify its costs, but the regulator has so far been uncooperative.

“The NHVR have not been forthcoming with a breakdown of the costs recoverable from industry and the ATA has been disappointed with the lack of NHVR engagement with industry to clarify these costs,” the submission states.

The NTC has also proposed another approach (Option C) that would raise 79.2 per cent of revenue from the fuel excise and 20.8 per cent from registration fees.


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