Road price hikes bad timing, business says

New charges on the way, as operators plead for governments to hold off

Road price hikes bad timing, business says
Road price hikes bad timing, business says
By Brad Gardner

Trucking operators are questioning the need for a fresh wave of heavy vehicle charges, as governments line up to increase registration and fuel costs.

With the introduction date for a 3.2 percent increase in state and federal-based charges drawing closer, governments are being asked to re-think whether it is wise to increase running costs for trucking companies during an economic downturn.

From July 1, changes to state and Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) charges will increase B-double registration by close to $3000 and semi-trailer fees by $240.

Furthermore, the road user charge will jump by 0.7 cents, but trucking companies are saying they cannot afford either increase.

Long-time operators such as Karl Dell Heavy Haulage are noticing a sharp rise in the rate of companies going bust, and predict the onset of higher charges will add to the attrition rate.

"We have lost a lot of business and there are people struggling and going broke," company founder Karl Dell says.

"Our turnover has gone down quite a lot."

Although the National Transport Commission (NTC) says revenue from the charges will be invested in improving the road network, Gary Penn from Penns Cartage has questioned the reasoning.

"If anyone believes that then they believe in bloody fairies," he says.

Referring to remote areas in Alice Springs and Mt Isa, Penn says governments are not investing enough funds in the road network to the point where drivers have no where to rest.

"These people need to get off their backsides," Penn says.

"Some of those roads out there have no truck bays."

Although the Australian Trucking Association has backed the new charges, it wants them delayed until January 1, 2010, arguing that companies are already feeling the pinch from an underperforming economy.

The group wants Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese to delay the charges and use his influence to convince his state and territory counterparts to do the same.

And as Albanese contemplates the ATA’s proposal, owner-driver Aaron Pendlebury says an increase in charges from July 1 is bad timing.

Pendlebury, who runs Aaron’s Heavy Haulage, says demand usually slows around June and July before picking up over the Christmas period.

"The middle of the year is usually the toughest; summer time is flat out," he says.

Penn, whose company has not been hit hard by a declining economy, says governments need to pay more attention to the demands of the road freight task rather than having "bureaucrats who have never opened a truck door telling us what to do".

"They go away in their own little world and do what they want," he says.

If passed, the 0.7 cent rise in the road user charge will cut the fuel tax credit to 16.34. The Rudd Government must gain the support of the Senate to pass the increase, but the Opposition has expressed doubt as to whether the rise is necessary.

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