Weekly News – Rebate to increase in line with fuel tax hike

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REBATE TO INCREASE IN LINE WITH FUEL TAX HIKE

The Australian Government will raise an additional $2.2b in tax revenue annually by increasing the fuel tax rate from 38.143 cents per litre to 38.6 cents per litre on 10 November 2014.

The increase in the fuel tax rate will not affect the net fuel price paid by trucking operators because the fuel tax credit rate will rise by the same amount at the same time. Operators should however consider the impact on cash flow during the period before the rebate is paid.

You have probably heard in the media that the rate rise is occurring via a tariff proposal rather than passing the usual fuel indexation bills via Parliament. It’s all a bit unusual but as they say “where there’s a will there’s a way” and the end result is the same. You can read the official explanation here:  http://www.financeminister.gov.au/media/2014/1028-implementation.html

ALRTA NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETS IN CANBERRA

The ALRTA National Council met in Canberra on Thursday, 23 October 2014. Some of the major issues discussed related to effluent, ABS braking for A-trailers, PBS access, roadworthiness, chain of responsibility, animal welfare, truckCare and further consideration of the ALRTA’s constitution.

Delegates were in attendance from all of our state associations and we welcomed several special guests including the NTC Chief Executive Officer, the ATA TruckSafe Manager and a governance expert from the Associations Forum.

Members interested in Council proceedings on any of these matters are encouraged to contact the ALRTA Secretariat or your State Association for more information.

ALRTA DELEGATION MEETS KEY DECISION MAKERS

While the National Council was in Canberra for the Council meeting we took the opportunity to knock on the doors of several key government decision makers. Our delegation comprised National President Grant Robins (LRTAWA), Graeme Hoare (LBCA), John Beer (LRTAV) and Mathew Munro (Executive Director).

Over the course of a day we met with the Minister for Employment (Senator Eric Abetz); Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development (the Hon Jamie Briggs MP); an advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister; an advisor to the Minister for Agriculture as well as several officials from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The meetings were an excellent chance to progress specific matters of concern and to learn about the government’s agenda leading into the upcoming Meeting of Ministerial Transport and Infrastructure Council on 7 November 2014. Two of the most important issues that Ministers will be considering relate to executive officer liability under chain of responsibility laws and heavy vehicle road worthiness.

EXECUTIVE OFFICER LIABILITY

The ALRTA has been gravely concerned about an NTC proposal to reduce the number of offences attracting executive officer liability to just 17 as part of a review of the laws against COAG guidelines in this area. In our opinion, this proposal would have significantly watered down the laws and also created a large grey area for prosecutors.

After concerted lobbying by industry and certain state governments, we now understand that the recommended number has been increased closer to 60 and that enforcement agencies are generally comfortable with the outcome. Importantly, the NTC has now agreed with an ALRTA recommendation that case-study analysis of the final package of chain of responsibility laws be undertaken at the completion of the separate reviews of duties and vehicle maintenance before the laws are actually changed in 2015-16.  This is absolutely necessary to ensure that well-intentioned changes in one area do not reduce the overall effectiveness of the laws.

HEAVY VEHICLE ROADWORTHINESS

There is a major challenge facing industry in the area of vehicle roadworthiness. Several State and Federal Ministers are pressing hard for urgent action to improve the presentation of heavy vehicles on the roadside after a spate of high profile accidents, instances of non-conformance with the NHVAS maintenance module and an unacceptably high number of road-side defects being reported by police and vehicle inspectors. The ALRTA expects Ministers to approve the release of a regulatory impact statement that will examine a range of options, but there is also a risk of a knee-jerk reaction coming out of the Ministerial meeting on 7 November.

We have been told by government in no uncertain terms that industry needs to carefully consider this issue and be part of a proactive solution. If we just stick out heads in the sand then the one thing we can be sure of is that a handful of capital city bureaucrats will make the decision for us.

Our National Council considers that one of the fundamental problems with the current system is that some vehicles are not ever required to be physically inspected. For example, there are no statutory inspections for heavy vehicles registered in Victoria this is also true for accredited vehicles operating under the NHVAS maintenance module.

A simple solution would be to require that heavy vehicles either be inspected or be accredited under a reputable maintenance program.  Accreditation must also include a truly independent auditing system with provision for a small number of random vehicle inspections by a qualified person to verify that the paperwork truly reflects the condition of the vehicles.

ACCESS TO PBS MASS LIMITS

This week the ALRTA made a submission in response to the NTC discussion paper on Access to PBS Mass Limits for Truck and Trailer Combinations.

The ALRTA is generally supportive of the proposal to streamline the PBS process to reduce red-tape and improve access to PBS mass limits. The most effective method for achieving this would be to develop a ‘specification envelope’ against which new applications could be made with a much higher level of certainty.

We have however raised a concern that, in this particular case, the proposal will have the effect of encouraging the use of 6 & 7 axle truck and dogs because it is much cheaper to purchase and register these combinations as compared with a b-double of similar load capacity.   Many operators believe that a b-double is a more stable combination and a significant move towards truck and dogs could have a negative safety impact.

We have also stated that the NTC needs to be mindful of encouraging innovation within the PBS system. The ALRTA is aware of ‘pioneer’ operators who have spent close to $100,000 on applications which, once approved, will improve the operator’s productivity and establish a competitive advantage, enabling the operator to recoup their investment.

If PBS is streamlined such that competing operators are more easily able to make their own substantially similar applications, but at a much lower cost, this will discourage ‘pioneer’ applicants from making a large investment in new and innovative designs. One solution for addressing this problem would be to use the PBS system to recover a proportion of the costs incurred by the original applicant.

NHVR INDUSTRY OPERATIONS GROUP

ALRTA representatives (Graeme Hoare, David Scott and Mathew Munro) attended a meeting of the NHVR Industry Operations Group (IOG) in Brisbane on Thursday this week. The IOG has by default become the primary mechanism through which the national regulator consults with industry – this is simply because Governments did not act on our strong and clear advice to establish a standing consultative group of all key stakeholders comprising industry, states, commonwealth, police and the NTC. Everyone passed the buck and nothing was done – so here we are funding the whole show without any real decision-making or oversight role.

IOG members are clearly very unhappy with this situation and we will continue to make this known to Ministers at every opportunity.

That aside, the IOG is a useful consultative forum for obtaining information about NHVR operations and airing concerns about front-line performance issues. The main topics of conversation related to the permit remediation process, AFM and scope for nationalising local productivity initiatives.  While work is slowly progressing on all fronts, it is fair to say that industry is seriously concerned about whether or not the NHVR actually has the resources and certainty of funding it requires to deliver the timely outcomes expected by industry and promised by governments.

There are runs on the board and wickets in hand but the scoring rate is agonisingly slow.

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