Business joins call for GPS truck charging


Governments should fast-track introduction of mass-distance charging and uniform laws, report argues

By Brad Gardner | October 26, 2009

Governments should fast-track the introduction of mass-distance charging and uniform trucking laws under a national road freight plan, a new report argues.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) is urging governments to take a new approach towards the road, rail and port sectors, claiming current practices are riddled with poor planning, under-funding and a short-term focus.

Its report, Groundwork for Growth: Building the Infrastructure that Australia Needs, recommends the development of a National Freight Implementation Plan responsible for setting investment targets and focusing on regulatory, policy and spending needs.

Under the proposal, single regulators for trucking and rail will be introduced in 2010 instead of 2013 to boost productivity and the fuel excise will be scrapped in favour of a charging model linked to electronic monitoring.

The report dismisses the continued use of the excise for recouping road damage costs, saying it relies on the type of vehicle and when and where it is driven rather than how far it travels and how much fuel it consumes.

Although the BCA does not propose a start date for the change, it wants an "accelerated introduction of the mass-distance and location charging for trucks, starting initially with incremental pricing and followed soon by full locational charging…"

The plan will also deliver a four-year rolling spending package, which the BCA claims will improve efficiency and reduce bottlenecks, and link revenue to road funding.

According to the BCA, the road charging process needs to change because the charges are not given to the road provider to maintain and upgrade routes.

"This disconnect between road charging and funding means that road providers have no reliable, long-term source of funds."

Because of this, the BCA claims there is no link between what drivers pay for using certain roads and the quality of those routes.

The BCA wants governments to match charges to planned spending and for a government-industry body to be established to monitor the setting, collecting and spending of road user charges.

Under the BCA’s proposal, the national plan will be developed within a year and federal and state treasuries, Infrastructure Australia and the National Transport Commission will be involved in the process.

It will also involve a regular reporting schedule to ensure targets are being met and objectives have been achieved.

According to the report, Australia’s freight task has suffered longstanding problems because of planning delays in solving significant capacity constraints and a focus on single freight modes rather than the entire supply chain.

"Planning deficiencies mean that in many cases capacity building has been delayed until it is critical," the report says, citing the Pacific Highway upgrade and missing rail links from coal fields to ports in Queensland as examples.

"Many projects have long lead times, and this delay means capacity is not in place when it is needed."

LIFT YOUR GAME, BCA SAYS
As well as calling for a comprehensive approach to infrastructure planning and investment, the report criticises governments for agreeing to implement seamless heavy vehicle laws in 2013.

According to the BCA, the decision "raises serious questions about the ATC’s [Australian Transport Council] and COAG’s commitment".

"The current timetable of introduction by 2013 is too long for reforms that have been so long foreshadowed," the report says.

Although wary of governments taking a "lowest common denominator" approach or adding jurisdiction-specific exclusions to the laws, the BCA says decision makers need to deliver.

"It would be a shame if, after all this time and rhetoric, all we gained were more reports and high level strategies," the report says.


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