Switch to fuel charging will be 'problematic'

SARTA believes governments need to consider two-tier fee if they opt for fuel charging, but adds axle charging is best

By Brad Gardner | May 6, 2013

Governments may need to consider a two-tier fee if they opt for fuel charging for heavy vehicles, according to the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), which has backed axle charging instead.

SARTA Executive Director Steve Shearer has highlighted problems he believes governments will face if they move away from the existing charging model to one that recoups most revenue from fuel excise.

He says local operators will benefit from fuel charging because they rack up low kilometres and have access to high quality roads, while linehaul operators will be paying higher fees and be travelling on poorly maintained and unsealed routes. Shearer says poorly maintained roads chew through fuel because trucks are forced to craw along in low gear at average speeds of 25km/h.

"In our judgment the bulk of the industry would be more adversely affected the more the balance of charges is shifted from registration to fuel," he says in a written response to a discussion paper on reforming truck charges.

"It would not be appropriate to even consider applying higher charges on an linehaul or a rural operator…when there is no realistic or foreseeable prospect of those roads being sealed when they are currently not even maintained properly."

Shearer says a zonal-based charge may be needed to reflect traffic volumes, kilometres travelled and the quality of road infrastructure.

"This could involve two excise rebate levels, the second and greater rebate would apply to rigs that have travelled more than a threshold number of kms in the claim period," he writes.

He wants the National Transport Commission (NTC), which released a discussion paper on potential changes to truck charges, to focus its efforts on individual axle charging.

Shearer claims the approach will provide "a far better outcome for the vast bulk of the industry" through introducing a simpler system and treating all trailers as one class.

"We would strongly urge adoption of a per axle approach, not per axle group, so as to provide the greatest simplicity and flexibility," he says.

"The proposed shift, by any degree, from Registration to Fuel charging will be problematic."

The NTC will this month provide a final proposal to transport ministers on reforming truck charges. The discussion paper’s proposals are designed to offer short-term solutions until the Heavy Vehicle Charging and Investment project’s recommendations are introduced.

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