The trucking industry is grateful for anything it can get at the moment, some are doing it very tough, some are busy, but everyone knows we are in a recession, and the number of freight movements will fall, but is now the time to be tinkering at the edges or looking at some real wholesale reform? The answer always has to be the latter for the trucking industry.
We have never had a charging regime or regulatory structure which was national as well as rational. The way the trucking industry pays its way is the result of small changes in ad hoc arrangements which should never have been anything but temporary.
This week, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has announced that all of the fees it charges the industry for services are to be frozen until next year. That’s a fine gesture and it will help.
A few weeks back government announced it was going to freeze the Road User Charge for the next year as a result of the effect of the coronavirus. That is a gesture of sorts, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the trucking industry is being grossly overcharged for the right to use the country’s highways.
Not only that, the government has admitted to the overcharging several years ago and promised some reform. We are still waiting. There isn’t even the hint of a real reform on the horizon.
That’s not a problem, the registration charges and fuel excise will pay for all of the wear and tear caused on our roads by trucks and leave a little more extra in the government’s back pocket. The powers that be have very little incentive to do anything about it, but they better not mention the words ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’.
We come back to the same problem over and over again, freight doesn’t vote and the industry is so diverse it is difficult to get it to genuinely speak with one message.
Oh yes, they need us when the supermarkets are running out of toilet rolls or the cattle are running out of feed, but once whichever particular crisis is over and the trucking industry has pulled us through, it’s back to normal, being ignored while still keeping the economy going.
The fact is, we are in a crisis right now and while the situation is in a state of flux, is it not time to get a few basics sorted out and not just allow the same old, same old keep going. We have a legacy charging system which was cobbled together from various state-based systems and a Road User Charge designed for expediency to get the GST up.
The government is talking about stimulus, well how about coming up with a simple to use road charging regime which is not only fair and equitable, but one which rewards truck operator who are doing the right thing and improving productivity.
The trucking industry is one of the drivers of economic growth and the more efficient it is, the better economic growth we will get. This is not the trucking industry asking for a handout, it is asking for a rational and stimulatory road charging regime. Less of this tinkering at the edges and more of the radical reform to get Australia on the move again.