Monday, August 16, 2010

Trucking Organisation Asks Politicians About Future Of The Freight Industry

ATA Post Pre- Election Survey and Want Fuel Based Pricing Policy
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – As usual the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) are on the ball when it comes to the changing face of freight in the country. In their latest venture the group asked all political parties how they saw the future of the freight industry on Australian roads – and got some interesting responses before the countrywide poll this weekend.

The questionnaire posed several tricky problems and full results can be seen HERE. In short the various factions gave the following responses to the main points.

National truck regulator and laws: Trucking operators currently have to contend with nine different regulatory frameworks and nine registration systems. The results show the Labor Party would press on with setting up a national truck regulator and laws, with the aim of getting the regulator underway by 2012 whereas the Coalition has made a much less specific commitment to pursue regulatory harmonisation, with no timeframes.

The ATA consider this a key policy and whilst supporting a refined national system of truck regulations feel it is essential to preserve existing local productivity and access arrangements and promote the adoption of these benefits in like circumstances. The ATA also believes “There must also be a uniform solution on fatigue management that takes into account the unique characteristics of operations in Western Australia, Northern Territory and other remote areas.”

The vastness of these territories produces an environment particular to the areas concerned. This leads to a discussion on truck rest areas.

Road funding and rest areas: The Labor Party and the Coalition have both shown a strong commitment to building better roads. The Coalition, however, has pledged to build 500 truck rest areas over the next ten years and spend $300 million over four years to rebuild regional bridges.

Mass-distance-location pricing: Parties of every hue responded cautiously to any suggestion that trucks pay for mileage travelled due to the difficulties and expense in setting up and maintaining a fair system using advanced technology with GPS and transponders linking to a national taxation point. As with many other truck associations in other countries, the ATA favours a fuel based taxation system which also suits the green lobby (although whether the final figures arrived at would be satisfactory to both is another matter).

The ATA has proposed a charging system, which would reduce truck and trailer registration charges to a flat A$400. There would be a two-tiered fuel tax on the industry, and road asset managers like local governments would be able to apply for funding to upgrade their roads to handle safer trucks with greater capacity.Labor say they would include a thorough consideration of the ATA’s fuel based charging plan, meanwhile the Coalition has made it clear there would be no shift to mass-distance-location pricing, fuel based charging, or any other method without widespread industry consultation.

Using safer trucks with greater capacity: The Labor Party would support a responsible, staged approach to increasing the use of high productivity freight vehicles (which the ATA consider 'safer')on appropriate roads whilst the Coalition would also consider further measures to encourage the use of more fuel efficient trucks.

The questionnaire results show the Australian Greens are committed to safer roads, with their approach based on the AusRAP road safety rating system. The Greens say they would work to ensure that all new roads or major upgrades are designed to achieve at least a four star AusRAP safety rating, or five stars if it is a major highway. According to the Greens, all regional roads should achieve a four star rating by 2020.

However the Greens have separately announced they would remove the industry’s fuel tax credits and increase registration charges for B-doubles to more than $23,000. The ATA claim these measures would add about a billion dollars per year to the industry’s costs.

ATA Chief Executive Stuart St Clair was delighted by the response to the questionnaire and thanked all the parties concerned, he said:

“The ATA has done our job and provided the 246,000 people in the trucking industry with the facts about where the parties stand. It’s now up to all of us to decide how to vote when Australia goes to the polls on Saturday.”