QTA says improved efficiency is vital
BACK in 1987 the emerging transport titan Lindsay Fox gave the William Fraser Memorial lecture in Perth where in part he summarised the state of play on how much the Federal and State governments were raising by way of charges and where it was not
Mr Fox outlined the industry taxation burden in a wide range of areas including fuel, licenses, customs sales and road.
The tax estimate calculated by Lindsay Fox at that time, based on 150,000km per annum was that anyone owning a standard 6 x 4 prime mover was paying $1,000 a week in taxes and charges.
"No industry pays as much indirect tax as we do" he said.
His question then which is even more relevant now is "How much of it is spent on roads and more specifically road improvements that boost efficiency as well as safety.
More than three decades later this ever increasing tax overburden continues and is reinforced with independent analysis from authorities such as the National Transport Commission.
Have a think about how much money has been spent just on the inter-capital routes between Brisbane and Melbourne in the last 30 years? - megabillions.
Can you yet use a 30-metre combination at HML weights that carries two 40 foot containers? - The international shipping standard says no.
The last limited access productivity gain was 1997 with 26 metre B-Doubles.
Government was talking about an individual PBS vehicle approval is all well and good but we need genuine efficiency across the land-based trade routes of this country.
As Adam Creighton (Economics Editor) noted in the 'Australian' there is a real issue with Transport Infrastructure when it costs a Brisbane based advanced manufacturing company as much to move its products 35 kilometres to the Port of Brisbane as it costs to complete the 13,000 nautical mile journey to Britain.
It should also be remembered that more than 85 percent of the road freight task is undertaken intrastate.
We are an internationally facing economy and our efficiency measures are stuck on a clock that stopped in the 1990's.
As Adam Creighton also noted, the World Bank measures on our logistics performance puts us at 19th in the world sitting between Ireland and South
A further measure of "Ease of trading" across borders placed Australia 95th globally in 2017 compared with a 2006 ranking of 23rd.
We are a vast country and highly decentralised with a relatively low population. Transport costs will always be a challenge, but we are a culture of ingenuity and resilience.
We cannot continue with our inefficiencies being such a handbrake on our economic performance.
The freight task in Australia is 750 billion tonne kilometres and will continue to grow at about 5 percent per annum which it has since the 70's.
No amount of pointing at autonomous or electric vehicles will carry more tonnage.
These new technologies will be adopted but we need to carry more per trip at a safer performance to be a competitive nation.
Performance Based Standard vehicles give us that opportunity whether they are diesel, hydrogen or electric powered and or autonomous.
With other technologies that we have available to industry (when allowed in regulation) we can climb back and be competitive rather than languish at 19th. Our economy and expectations of living standards demand it.
What we do have, is an enormous amount of taxpayer dollars being spent on road infrastructure and then those very roads being held to ransom on efficiency.
There is too much debate about permits when the discussion more rightly is why many of them exist.
An efficient road freight sector is a key ingredient to prosperity.
User pays as being pushed by the Federal government in principle can work, but only as a replacement, not added to the other charges such as fuel excise and state registration.
We need government to be focused on improvement to efficiency as well as safety, including rest areas.
The cost of inefficiency is not hidden from view it is reflected in the continuing cost increases to consumers being passed on in the ever increasing cost of living every day.
It is a big call but the transport cost challenge has the potential to be next to the Power cost challenge if government does not give priority to efficiency.