Truckers furious over 'ill-informed' port charge

Department of Transport to charge trucking operators $1 billion to fund Victorian Transport Plan’s $38 billion infrastructure bill

By Samantha Freestone | May 6, 2010

The Victorian Department of Transport will charge trucking operators $1 billion to fund the Victorian Transport Plan’s $38 billion infrastructure bill.

Freight Logistics and Marine Division Director for the Department of Transport Terry Garwood confirmed the plan at the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) head office yesterday.

The freight infrastructure charge, planned to be levied from mid-2011, will charge trucks entering international container stevedoring terminals in the Port of Melbourne as much as $160 to $180 per truck, raising $1 billion over the next 10 years.

VTA Director Philip Lovel calls the plan "nothing but a big new tax on transport and international trade".

He says levying trucks as opposed to the containers being carried is "ill-formed, half-baked and a recipe for disaster".

"The additional costs on transport operators in administering the charge may inflate the real costs to transport operators from between $250 to $300 per truck trip," Lovel says.

"It is clear the Department of Transport, the Port of Melbourne Corporation and indeed the Government don’t understand the container transport chain, particularly the commercial and operational circumstances of road transport companies."

The new charge is intended to encourage trucks to avoid travelling during ‘peak times’, hence the ‘peak pricing’ tag it has been given.

But Lovel says road carriers are at the mercy of slot times dictated by stevedores making the function of the charge useless.

"The times when road carriers can access the international container terminals are dictated [by available] slots, when ships are receiving and delivering cargo and by the demands from customers.

"What the Government seems not to understand is that road carriers are already moving towards 24/7 operations as trade volumes grow.

"[This now includes] Sunday (since October 2008) at one international container stevedoring terminal.

"If the customer wants the import container at their premises by 8am in the morning, then irrespective of whether the container has been collected from the stevedore the night before, a truck will be in the peak hour traffic stream that morning delivering the container to meet the customer’s needs."

The charges will "support" rail access and off-peak use of roads accessing the port, Pallas said last week.

Monies collected under the charge will also fund "intelligent access technology" to be used by higher-productivity vehicles (HPVs).

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