ALTA maintains reform momentum with push for A-trailer reprieve

Fresh from its successful fight for fatigue reform, the ALTA will next month launch its campaign to overhaul A-trailer fees

ALTA maintains reform momentum with push for A-trailer reprieve
ALTA maintains reform momentum with push for A-trailer reprieve
By Brad Gardner | June 21, 2011

Fresh from securing reforms to fatigue management counting rules, the livestock transport lobby will next month launch its campaign to overhaul A-trailer fees.

The Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA) plans to use its national conference on July 16 as a launch pad for convincing governments to stem the rising price of A-trailer registration charges.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has already committed to discussing the issue with industry but it has not guaranteed reform.

The cost of annual registration has skyrocketed since governments agreed to a new registration scheme in 2007, with the annual figure going from $1,065 in 2007 to $6,372 in 2010.

The cost will rise again from July 1 to $6,525 when registration fees rise by 2.4 percent due to increased government expenditure on the road network.

ALTA Executive Director Philip Halton (pictured) says the fees do not include the extra state-based administration and inspection charges.

The ALTA has already raised the issue with some governments on the need for reform and Halton says the fight will be tough.

"Winning this fight is going to be harder than the victory that we worked across industry to achieve recently on ‘counting time’," he wrote to his members this week.

While gaining agreement on uniform counting time involved South Australia and Victoria, Halton says the trucking industry will need to persuade all jurisdictions to come to the table.

"We’ll have our own economist working with our members during the conference to help us build the case for change. We’re going to need real input from operators to win this," he says.

Halton says the explosion in the cost of running a B-double has prompted operators to question whether to continue using the combination.

"There are operators right across the bush struggling to justify continuing to register their A-trailers and B-trains under the impact of these charges," he says.

The NTC announced in May this year it would hold discussions with industry.

"Heavy vehicle charging is a complex issue and whilst we envisage that we may identify some solutions that can be quickly and easily actioned, some of the more complex issues may need to be addressed as an additional piece of work," it said in a statement.

The ALTA argues many rural businesses do not get enough use out of A-trailers to make a return on their investment.

It has proposed seasonal registration, discounts for low mileage use and specialised classifications for stock crates and grain tippers, which Halton says spend a lot of time running empty, to reduce the financial burden on the industry.

Stockmaster General Manager Jim Marshall says up to 20 percent of the company’s fleet of 40 A-trailers can be parked in the livestock transporter’s yard at any one time.

"In the livestock transport industry there is a reasonable amount of time when A-trailers sit in the yard here and we just use the B-trailers," he says.

The NTC says A-trailer fees are a consequence of the heavy vehicle charges scheme introduced in 2007. The scheme removed the subsidy on B-doubles, which was introduced to encourage operators to use the configuration. The NTC estimates the subsidy led to a cost-recovery shortfall of about $16,000 per vehicle.

"The decision to remove the subsidy previously granted to B-doubles resulted in a significant increase in registration charges to B-double vehicles," it says.

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