THE Coalition has called on the Federal Government to put the brakes on massive increases to Road User Charges scheduled to take effect from July 1.
The proposed 10.4 percent hike in the Road User Charge comes in addition to the effects of the carbon tax, and occurs at a time when the transport industry is struggling to survive big cost increases.
The Road User Charge is collected through the fuel excise system and truck registration fees, many of which will rise by more than 30pc. The charge costs the road transport industry almost $2.5 billion a year and is intended to cover road maintenance and construction costs attribute to the industry.
In an eleventh-hour bid to win a reprieve for truckers, Shadow transport minister Warren Truss has written to Minister Anthony Albanese proposing a solution to reduce the massive costs and avert a political showdown.
“Our proposal would reduce the increase to 5.7pc by eliminating an unexpected $144 million surcharge being imposed to correct earlier miscalculations,” Mr Truss told the NSW Nationals state conference in Bowral today.
“If Mr Albanese doesn’t come to the party we will have no choice but to move to disallow the increased charges to protect truck drivers from unfair, arbitrary increases in registration and fuel excise costs,” he said.
“The trucking industry has been alarmed ever since the National Transport Commission decreed a 10.4pc increase in heavy vehicle charges to take effect from July 1. The Australian Trucking Association says that decision is based on outdated truck numbers that inflate the amount drivers must pay to the government in 2012-13, and overstated road building and maintenance calculations.”
Instead of counting the actual number of truck registrations, the ATA says the NTC took old registration figures and extrapolated a theoretical fleet size, which will see drivers fork-out $700 million more than they should.
“Making matters worse, documents provided to industry were later altered before being given to Ministers for a decision. The industry was not provided with detailed information on the model used by the NTC or the input data and assumptions underpinning them,” Mr Truss said.
“In fact, these were only made available after industry secured a Freedom of Information request and, even then, only after the NTC’s recommendations had already been accepted by the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI).”
“The ATA says despite the NTC’s recommendation that flood recovery expenditure be excluded from the calculations, about 25pc of that expenditure remains in the formula. In addition, $144 million was unexpectedly added to the amount to be collected because of a re-calculation of past obligations under the model.”
The Australian Livestock and Road Transporters Association has estimated that the impact of the NTC’s pricing model will see road trains overcharged by $27.9m each year, or by 40pc.
“As such, the principle of cost recovery by vehicle class is corrupted,” Mr Truss said.
In May this year, state and federal transport ministers agreed to review the NTC formula, accepting the general view that it may not be an accurate reflection of the costs attributable to all heavy vehicle classes.
“Despite SCOTI ministers agreeing to the increase, the Northern Territory and Western Australian Governments have implemented significantly lower registration increases and the NSW and South Australian Governments have announced concessions for certain truck configurations.”
“Since all parties seem to agree that the calculation model is in need of review, it would be grossly unfair to apply this model to justify such a huge increase,” Mr Truss said.