Forget banks, governments told to rescue transport

Governments told to scrap "misguided" policies of imposing charges and restrictions on trucking operators

By Brad Gardner

Governments are being told to scrap "misguided" policies of imposing charges and restrictions on trucking operators and instead focus on protecting them from the economic crisis.

The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has called for a number of initiatives to be implemented to help trucking operators through the economic downturn, which include reducing taxes and stopping new charges.

The IRU claims any plans to increase charges "threaten economic recovery and competitiveness" because trucking companies are already being hit by declining trade levels and the onset of bankruptcy.

To help the industry, the IRU wants governments to influence banks and financial institutions to reopen credit lines so companies can continue to invest.

In releasing the recommendations, IRU President Janusz Lacny bemoaned governments’ approach toward the industry, questioning why it is being ignored in favour of bank bailouts.

"If banks were to cease to exist, trade would still continue, whereas if road transport stopped, trade would come to a grinding halt," Lacny says.

He says it does not make sense to rescue banks on the basis they are vital to the economy and then introduce greater heavy vehicle charges when GDP is directly affected by road transport volumes.

"Governments’ priorities are clearly misguided," he says.

As part of the recommendations, the IRU IRU wants banks should consider putting a moratorium on interest on debts, while governments should introduce business incentives to encourage the purchase of new vehicles.

However, its recommendations come as banks evaluate lending practices to trucking businesses, which are considered a high risk option at a time when a recession looms in Australia.

But while calling for greater action from governments and lenders, the IRU says operators must also ensure they only transport goods if a profit can be made and costs passed on.

As if pre-empting the IRU, the Rudd Government has already implemented one of the group’s recommendations, which is for governments to invest in road infrastructure through stimulus packages.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese announced a raft of new spending under the Black Spot program as part of the Government’s $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan.

The IRU represents truck, bus, coach and taxi operators. Although Australia is not a member of the organisation, the IRU is made up of 180 members from 74 countries.

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