Industry puts a new option on the table: let’s go with fuel, let’s go now

At this week’s ATA Council meeting, Chairman David Simon has made all the right moves.

He’s directed that the industry reach out to the NTC, and start reaching out to Governments, to get this issue solved before it becomes unmanageable.

And he’s got the ATA Council to agree to expand the options that industry are now taking to Government.

As well as the existing proposal to fix A-Trailers by having a single, standard ‘axle charge’ across all trailers, we’re going to bring Governments another proposal: let’s shift the charges off A-Trailers and on to fuel.

… let’s cut rego for other trucks

If Governments take this approach, they’ll need to set the diesel tax at a level where the fuel burnt by a ‘typical’ B-Double will ‘pay out’ the excessive part of the A-Trailer charge.

That means that the other trucks on the road will be paying ‘too much’ compared to what the NTC calculates they should pay. There’s a solution for that: cut rego for the other trucks.

… let’s start reducing cross-subsidies between operators

For years now, many people in industry have realised that a problem with the current system is that it charges the same registration fee to (almost) every operator, regardless of what kind of mileage you actually get.

Every small operator, city or rural, has realised that this means their rego is cross-subsidising the high-mileage operators. Moving to a more ‘activity-based’ or ‘direct’ charging system will help with that, and fuel is a step in that direction.

Interestingly, NTC’s website page about the A-Trailer problem says this: only a move towards a direct pricing model would provide a long term solution to the issues raised by industry, and the broader problem of cross-subsidisation within a vehicle class”.

Yes, we agree. So why doesn’t the NTC stop pushing the failed proposal that Ministers didn’t like, and start working with on something where we can become powerful allies?

… does industry have the lobbying strength?

The biggest hurdles to delivering fuel as a solution are very clear: they’re political.

The States would have to be willing (in effect) to hand some money to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth would have to be willing to hand it back without the usual strings attached.

Far more challenging, industry would need to have the strength and the unity to ask the Federal Government to raise the ‘road use charge’ (by reducing the diesel rebate under fuel tax legislation) and to ask the other members of Federal Parliament to support it.

Any adjustment to the diesel rebate can be struck down in either chamber of the Federal Parliament.

Does the industry have the lobbying strength to stop that happening? Every Minister – State and Federal – would need to believe that we have what it takes to deliver, before they endorsed a plan that involves fuel. That’s the challenge before us.

One thing is clear: there will be no long summer holidays here in the ALRTA National Office, nor down the road for our colleagues at the ATA!

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