Spending the summer wading through the Annual Indexation data and scrutinising the NTC’s figures for A-Trailers, it’s impossible to avoid returning to the one fundamental conclusion: the current charging system is broken.
The use of ‘average weight’ and ‘average distance’ as the basis of the current registration charges means that it’s impossible to create charges that treat different operators with fairness.
The A-Trailer charges have been particularly harsh on operators who have ‘too many’ trailers or aren’t getting the official ‘average’ mileage from their trailers.
But they’re just a high profile demonstration of what the charges system is doing every day and for every type of vehicle and trailer, between operators who get lower mileage and lesser payloads and those that get higher levels of utilisation.
… waiting for someone else to fix it is risky and slow
Raise these issues of unfairness with any official, in any part of government, and the response you’ll get is ‘oh, that will need to be fixed through the COAG Road Reform Plan (CRRP).’
Even assuming that the CRRP process could identify some reforms that industry actually liked – and the proposals shown off last year certainly didn’t win any friends – the problem with this answer is that these officials have no guarantee that CRRP will lead to any on-the-ground improvements any time soon, if ever.
With a bit of imagination, there may be a number of improvements that the NTC could deliver far more quickly, to improve the fairness of the current charging system. The ALRTA is suggesting that these opportunities would give the Commission an opportunity to work more collaboratively with industry,
a change which both sides might enjoy.
For the Minister themselves, assigning this task to the NTC as its next priority after the A-Trailer issue is resolved would be great means of reinforcing their recent signals that ‘charging reform’ can be about improving fairness, and not just be all about how to inflict more pain. That’s a message that might go some way to restoring some confidence amongst industry.