A-Trailers: can the NTC pull a rabbit from its hat?

At a recent meeting with industry, some of the NTC staff have been almost beaming with excitement.

It seems they’ve found some fresh engineering research on the way Australia’s trucks are interacting with road pavements. And that research raises questions about how the industry’s total current charges bill is allocated across all the different types of truck that are in use.

While we haven’t been shown the research, it’s pretty clear that the implications are that it could be a trigger to re-calculate the registration charges for B-Doubles – and that could mean the charges on A-Trailers could be wound back.

We’ll need to see more detail on what it might mean – because if the total charges bill for industry is not being changed then, in order for charges upon one type of truck to go down, it means that charges for some other type of truck must go up.

But it’s certainly sounding promising so far.

What the NTC’s suggesting would be a different solution to the various ideas that industry has put forward. The industry proposals have all involved changing the actual ‘rules of the game.’

Rather than changing ‘the rules of the game’, the NTC is basically talking about re-playing the Grand Final, on a new playing field.

If the new research stacks up, many Ministers are likely to welcome this news and to support the approach that’s being talked about. If the engineering data has changed, then allowing the registration charges to be re-calculated will surely seem like the fair thing to do.

We’ve consistently asked the NTC and State Ministers to deliver a result ‘on the ground’ by 1 July 2012. The good news is that this approach also could get close to hitting that deadline.

… too good to be true?

It may be tempting to think that it’s terribly convenient for the NTC to find this research after the industry’s been making so much noise about A-Trailers.

Yes, it’s very well timed. But that’s no reason to be cynical.

The reality is that industry has put a lot of pressure on the NTC to find a solution, and they’ve been searching high and low to find a way forward.

Many successful business people know that, sometimes, you can make your own luck. That looks to be what industry, and the NTC, may achieve on the A-Trailer issue.

But relying on pure luck is no way to manage your future.

David Simon’s statement to the Tax Forum was correct: the current system is broken. Even if we dodge the bullet on A-Trailer charges, the current system is still going to put up your rego every year and clawback your fuel rebate too.

Industry should be using any breathing space we may win on the A-Trailer issue, to really build the case for governments to move to a new system.

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