A-Trailers: industry starts reaching out to NTC, governments

During the past week, industry has started reaching out to key people in the NTC and across all the various agencies and governments, explaining the details of our ideas for how to fix A-Trailer charges, including the new proposal of shifting some of the charges on to fuel.

Once again, we’re running a tightly coordinated campaign with our colleagues in the ATA.

From the ALRTA, we’ve expressed our concern to the highest level in the NTC and within government that, if the NTC simply re-submits the proposals which Ministers found disagreeable, it could lead to a breakdown in the national charging system.

The NTC needs to bring forward some new options, and industry is going everything it can to offer useful suggestions.

Everywhere we turn, officials are absolutely focused upon meeting the instruction to produce an answer by February, and implement it in mid-2012. The pressure is clearly on.

It is now 99% certain that we’re going to see major changes to A-Trailer charges by the middle of next year. Exactly what will happen is now getting hard to predict, and the outcome will depend on whether the NTC is willing to deliver a solution that works, or whether the States are just going to cut loose on their own.

… the ALRTA form    guide to the options for A-Trailers

1. Move back to a   standard charge ‘per axle’ on all trailers
Detail: spread the cost of A-Trailers across the trailer   fleet, so that all trailer axles are charged a standard fee-per-axle.

Pros: Simple for all governments to implement. Restores   flexibility in the use of trailers. Maintains total revenue to government, so industry continues to ‘pay its   own way’ in aggregate.

Cons: Transfers costs onto operators who don’t run any   A-Trailers at all. Exposes industry to criticism that B-Doubles won’t be   paying their way.


Odds: 2-1.
2. Shift (some of) the   rego charges onto fuel
Detail: Raise the fuel tax enough to ‘pay out’ the   excessive part of A-Trailer rego, cut rego for other trucks as appropriate.

Pros: Attacks the real problem: high rego costs that   don’t vary with the mileage individual operators actually get from their   gear. Meets all ‘cost recovery’ objectives. Is a step forward, rather than a   step sideways.

Cons: Requires all governments to cooperate so that Feds   ‘handback’ lost revenue to the States. May take too long to negotiate at   political level.



Odds: 4-1
Late entrant that will need to sprint
3. Recalculate charges
Detail: Cut rego costs for A-Trailers and raise rego   charges for other types of truck, based on ‘new engineering research’.   Appears to be the NTC’s favourite proposal.

Pros: Gets costs off A-Trailers.

Cons: Solves one problem by merely creating another. May   not be a lasting solution: engineering research that allegedly justifies the   move has never been seen by industry and may be faulty. Hard to explain to   politicians why the NTC would be allowed to recalculate some numbers without   doing a ‘full Determination’.


Odds: 8-1 lengthening 
4. Simply cut  A-Trailer charges
Detail: Simply cut rego charges on A-Trailers. Appears to   be a ‘breakaway’ option for some States.

Pros: Gets costs off A-Trailers.

Cons: Threatens a breakdown of the national charging   system. When there are no rules to control how charges are set, ultimately   industry risks being the big loser.


Odds: 6-1    shortening fast
5. Offer discounts or   rebates to low-usage operators.
Detail: Give relief to operators who are being most   unfairly hit A-Trailer charges.

Pros: Gives relief to the most deserving operators, and   does so quickly. Crudely delivers on the future objective of moving to more   ‘variable’ charges that reflect mileage or usage. Consistent with existing   State-based discounts to farmers and others who make low usage of their gear,   which have always been accepted as ‘fair and appropriate’.

Cons: Doesn’t help every operator, and some of the ones   left out would complain that they deserved a break. Some complexity for   implementation by governments.

Odds: Scratched.    Could have been an option six months ago if the NTC had acted more   swiftly.

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