Lobbying begins to delay higher road charges

Peak trucking lobby begins push for new road charges to be delayed, but rules out attempting to have them blocked

By Brad Gardner

The peak trucking lobby has begun its push for a delay in the introduction of new heavy vehicle charges, but has ruled out attempting to have them blocked.

Following a meeting with Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) will ask the Senate to support introducing new charges on January 1, 2010 rather than July this year.

A spokesman for the group says it is important senators recognise the impact a 3.2 percent increase in the road user charge and registration fees will have on the industry, which has been hit hard since the onset of the economic downturn.

But even if it cannot secure the six-month delay, the spokesman says the group will still support the charges, which will reduce the fuel tax credit to 16.44 cents and add almost an extra $3000 to B-double registration fees.

"At an appropriate time we will be talking to senators and telling them the increase is fair," the spokesman says.

"We will not be going to the Senate saying you should disallow this."

Although the ATA says Albanese considered its views, a spokesman for the minister says a decision will not be made until the Government receives a report from the National Transport Commission.

Albanese wrote to the NTC on April 6 asking it to consult industry stakeholders on the proposed increase, and the NTC and ATA say the 3.2 percent increase is justified on the basis of government investment in the road network.

"When the Government receives the outcome of that study it will consider its position," Albanese’s spokesman says.

As well as asking Albanese to delay higher charges under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS), the ATA wants him to use his influence on state and territory transport ministers to delay state-based charges.

Although it has not yet decided whether to support the higher charges, the Coalition is sceptical they are justified.

During the Australian Trucking Convention earlier this year, opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss told delegates the Government needed to build more rest areas before he supported the 3.2 percent increase.

Although it holds a majority in the House of Representatives, the Government needs the support of the Greens, Family First and Independent Nick Xenophon in the Senate to pass legislation if the Coalition opposes it.

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