New financial year brings higher operating costs


Transport and Logistics operators will be hit with wage increases, a higher fuel excise and a rise in registration charges from July 1

By Brad Gardner |
July 1, 2011

Transport and logistics operators will be forced to scrape around for extra cash from today, with a combination of higher charges set to increase running costs.

A 2.4 percent increase to heavy vehicle registration charges and the fuel excise will begin on July 1, along with a 3.4 percent wage increase for employees under the modern Award system.

The annual registration fee for a six-axle semi-trailer will climb by $134, from $5,612 to $5,746. B-double operators will need to hand over much more to keep their rigs on the road, with the registration fee to go from $15,340 to $15,708.

Operators will pay $11,438 to register a double road-train (up from $11,170), while the cost of a triple road-train will hit $13,693, an increase of $321.

The excise increase means the fuel rebate operators can claim will fall by half a cent from 15.5 to 15 cents per litre.

In recommending a 2.4 percent increase earlier this year, the National Transport Commission (NTC) argued it was necessary to keep pace with rising government expenditure on the road network.

The latest increase means the excise and registration fees have risen by almost 10 percent since 2009, stripping a significant amount from the bottom lines of
transport operators.

"Spending on roads and bridges across all levels of government has increased significantly in recent years, reflecting initiatives from all levels of government to improve road transport infrastructure," the NTC says.

"There is a strong link between increased investment in the road network and improving the productivity and safety of heavy vehicles."

The NTC says revenue from heavy vehicle charges contributes to safer roads and increased access for B-doubles.

Much of the trucking industry’s anger over higher charges has centred on the exorbitant increases in A-trailer registration fees – a product of a 2007 agreement between transport ministers.

Currently costing $6,372 to register, the NTC says the cost of registering an A-trailer has risen because ministers removed a subsidy brought in to encourage the trucking industry to adopt B-doubles.

The NTC says the 2007 decision also shifted the registration cost onto trailers to give the industry flexibility in using prime movers in different configurations.

The Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA) is lobbying for changes to the registration system. It argues operators, particularly regional and rural carriers, do not get enough use out of their A-trailers to justify the cost.

Sections of the transport and logistics industry fear operators will resort to switching back to semi-trailers to save money, which will in turn reduce productivity and increase the number of trucks on the road.

EMPLOYEE WAGES TO RISE
Approved by Fair Work Australia earlier this month, the wage increase applies to operators using the Road Transport and Distribution Award, the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award and the Transport (Cash in Transit) Award 2010.

NSW-based trucking operators using the NSW Transport Industry (State) Award will again need to apply a transition rate as part of a five-year scheme to bring the higher NSW wages into line with other jurisdictions.

Operators had to apply a transition rate of 80 percent on July 1 last year, but will now need to lower that to 60 percent. The rate will gradually decline at the start of each financial year, before reaching nothing on July 1, 2014.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates the 3.4 percent wage increase will represent rises of between $21.28 and $38 for most Award workers.

Despite a plea from business groups, Fair Work Australia rejected a deferral for businesses affected by recent natural disasters.

Transport operators not using the modern Award system might still need to increase the pay packets of employees to keep them from heading to the mines.

A report from the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council released in April revealed strong demand in the mines for delivery drivers, managers, schedulers, B-double drivers and dangerous goods operators. According to the report, entry-level drivers with no experience are being offered $120,000.

The report claims West Australian and North Queensland operators are under pressure to increase wages to unsustainable levels or risk losing key personnel.

"It can be difficult for employers who are not associated with mining and construction to attract and retain workers at financially viable rates," the report says.

The Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme will also begin tomorrow.

The Family Assistance Office will determine if an employee is eligible to receive payments. If so, payments will be sent to the employer just before an employee's leave is due to begin and the employer will be responsible for passing the funds on in the regular pay cycle.


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