Friday, February 10, 2012

Road Haulage Body Criticises Proposals by Freight Trucking Authorities

ATA Says Change in Registration Fees Will Cost Lives
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – Earlier this week we wrote of the global search authorities are embarking on to find a suitable candidate for the role of Chief Executive of the new body instituted to put the national heavy vehicle reform package into operation. Now, in response to a National Transport Commission (NTC) request for opinions on the charges levied on road haulage owners and operators of just such commercial freight vehicles the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has issued a response via its own CEO, Stuart St Clair.

The trucking community in the country, never known to be reserved in its condemnation of authority when and where it considers appropriate, is enraged by the escalating charges it has watched rise inexorably in the past few years. Transport Ministers have openly admitted that the situation is untenable for operators and it was this that prompted the request last December for a discussion with stakeholders.

Because registration fees on a typical tri axle A trailer stand currently at A$6,525 (a 620% increase since 2007-2008) the ATA argues that tri axle A trailers should have registration fees aligned with those of semi trailers, bringing the charge down to A$1,472 per annum. The ATA presents a very cogent case for doing so with Mr St Clair saying:

“The use of B-doubles has been the greatest source of productivity gains in the industry, because they typically carry 34 pallets of freight compared to 22 for a typical semitrailer. This has reduced the growth in the number of trucks on the road and improved business outcomes for both trucking operators and customers. To reverse the decline, the ATA recommends that A-trailers and semitrailers should be subject to the same registration charge.

“As a result, the registration charge for a tri-axle A-trailer would fall from $6,525 to $1,472. The registration charge for a nine-axle B-double, including the prime mover, would fall from $15,708 to $10,995.”

The ATA is also at pains to point out its objections to the four options suggested by the NTC in its discussion paper (HERE) a document which at first glance could confuse a nuclear physicist. The recommendation that all registration charges and the effective fuel tax paid by trucking operators should increase 5.7 per cent from 1st July 2012 is condemned out of hand as, when coupled with the proposals for adjusting the A trailer rates, this would effectively result in a 12% increase. The ATA chief criticised the NTC for keeping the methodology it used to arrive at its conclusions regarding costs a closely guarded secret with several changes made following criticism over ‘significant and serious anomalies in the NTC calculations’ and complained that operators were being asked to accept the NTC’s figures on trust.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument put forward however for a review of charges is on grounds of safety. Globally critics who know little about the trucking industry habitually complain about bigger trucks insinuating they cause more damage to road surfaces and are likely to cause more accidents. These points are eloquently rebuffed by Mr St Clair who commented:

“The 5.7 per cent increase grossly overestimates the increase in road spending associated with the trucking industry. The NTC approach assumes the weather is responsible for half the maintenance needed by the road system. This assumption is far too conservative, given the recent natural disasters. The NTC was able to exclude reconstruction funding from other sources, such as insurance, but this only covered part of the cost of fixing the road system.

“As a result of the dramatic increase in charges, many trucking operators are now moving away from using B-doubles. If this continues, the result will be an increased number of accidents and lower productivity, because B-doubles are safer and carry more than conventional semi-trailers. Our modelling shows that a 25 per cent decline in the use of B-doubles would increase the number of semi-trailers on the road by 40 per cent. As a result, the national road toll would increase by about 18 fatalities per year. ”

Photo: The ultimate Aussie B Double? – the XXXX Gold Retreat - with inset - the bar it converts into!