New truck fee attacked
AUSTRALIAN Trucking Association Chairman David Simon has slammed the government's investigation into a new heavy vehicle charging system.
Speaking in a nationally televised address at the National Press Club in Canberra last week Simon said the government would be better off improving the way they planned and built roads instead of altering the road charging system.
"The favoured option at the moment is called mass-distance-location pricing," he said.
"Every one of Australia's 543,000 heavy vehicles would be fitted with a regulatory GPS device. Trucking operators would receive invoices every month based on the distance they travel, the roads they use and some form of measurement of the mass they were carrying."
But this could cost the government $500 million and disrupt the industry with many needing to rework pricing structures - but as trucking operators were price takers not makers it would be difficult for them to change.
ATA Chairman David Simon said the Pricewaterhouse Coopers report commissioned by the ATA, released at the press club, provided a better alternative.
"The problem at the moment is Australia's road funding and planning system is broken. The system of charging trucking operators for our use of roads is also broken."
The report into Australia's road planning, funding and charging system proposed a supply and charging model would see the road freight network divided into three tiers: The nation's primary road transport corridors; last mile higher mass limit connections; and the remainder of the freight network.
Then there would be defined target standards for the roads in each tier.
Simon said the existing system penalised operators who travelled short distances and the money did not always go towards fixing road infrastructure.
Under the report's recommendations money raised would cover engineering issues like depth of pavement, radius of corners and strength of bridges, so that the government could approve high productivity vehicles to use the roads.
He said there was no business case for the mass-distance- location pricing system and the argument that the system would provide the government with information to support road planning was invalid.
"There is a large amount of information available, including from commercial vehicle counts."
It was B-triples he said that would reduce the road toll as the amount of trucks on the road would decrease.
But the general public did not understand the safety benefits of high productivity vehicles.
It came down to government regulation and the need for road upgrades, he said.
He said it was sometimes a "last mile" problem where local councils were needed to approve the use of bigger trucks to access customers premises.
"The amount of freight on our roads is projected to double by 2030, as our economy and population continue to grow. It sounds frightening. People wonder how Australia can handle it."
He wants to see B-triples and super B-doubles allowed on the Hume Hwy as soon as the Holbrook bypass is finished.
But it was up to the industry to change the perception of trucks and perform better on the road.
"A small number of truck drivers are bad drivers just like a small number of car drivers, they can be aggressive. If we can better perform on the road as an industry and not tailgate and not do some of those things that unfortunately some very small percentage of drivers do, we will be much better accepted by the community.
"The vast majority of trucks you see on the road do the right thing."