Defending industry interest

Are we under attack? Over the last couple of months the Transport Industry has been assaulted from all directions – governments, local communities, customers, operational issues and more. Here are just a few:

  • Truck exclusion lanes
  • Increasing registration charges and reducing diesel fuel excise
  • Truck access charges for the Port of Melbourne
  • Pallet management issues
  • Empty container park detention and delays
  • Customer controls
  • Industrial relations issues
  • Safe rates campaigns
  • Local community negativity

Is the industry even aware of all these increasing burdens on their business?  Well if they aren’t now, they soon will be. The VTA has been working very closely with our members and Government to address these issues. It is vital for all levels of Government to stop using the transport industry as a revenue source without proper justification. If these increases go ahead, it could send some companies broke.

Freight Infrastructure Charge

On 21 April, the Brumby Labor Government announced it was seeking expressions of interest from companies to implement and deliver a Freight Infrastructure Charge collection service at the Port of Melbourne.

Roads and Ports Minister Tim Pallas said the charge was aimed at easing congestion and improving urban amenity around the Port of Melbourne, with trucks to be encouraged to access the precinct at off-peak times.

The Government stated that revenue raised from the charge will contribute to investments in infrastructure announced in the Victorian Transport Plan.
In response, the VTA called a meeting on Tuesday 4 May regarding the implementation of a Freight Infrastructure Charge on trucks entering East and West Swanson Terminals in the Port of Melbourne.

Terry Garwood, Executive Director, Freight Logistics and Marine Division, Department of Transport, attended the meeting to brief VTA members on the Government’s intentions regarding this charge.

This was a vital opportunity for VTA members to understand the Charge and to provide feedback to the Department about the proposal and the implications. Members expressed concern over another Government revenue raising fee being burdened upon them.

Heavy Vehicle and Trailer Registration Fees and Fuel Excise

VTA members have been kept abreast of the changed nature of registration for heavy trailers in Victoria (and nationally), as well as the broader implications of increased heavy vehicle registration fees and fuel excise charges.

On 30 April, Federal, State and Territory Transport Ministers accepted recommendations from the National Transport Commission (NTC) to apply a further annual adjustment increase from 1 July 2010 of 4.2% on registration fees and a corresponding increase in the Road User Charge component of fuel excise from 21.7 cpl to 22.6 cpl (further reducing the eligible on-road fuel tax credit rate from 16.443 cpl to 15.543 cpl).

When the 4.2% annual increase is combined with the third year of the three year phase of the changed registration regime, the registration fees for a nine-axle B-double will rise a further 25.60% from $12,214 to $15,340, or, in other words, by over 56% in the two year period between 2008 and 2010!

It is not hard to visualise the difficulties road freight operators experience in recovering such massive cost increases from a very competitive freight transport marketplace. This is compounded when governments make decisions on the annual increases with very short notice.

Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue Laws Review

The VTA, together with the Livestock Transporters Association of Victoria (LTAV) have reached agreement with VicRoads to review the laws for heavy vehicle driver fatigue management in Victoria.

The objective of this collaborative effort is to make recommendations for the improvement of the laws and their enforcement in Victoria. The recommendations can then be fed into the national processes underway to create the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), including drafting of a single body of national heavy vehicle law.

An important issue for urgent harmonisation is the need for one set of rules on how enforcement officers ‘count time’ when checking a driver’s work diary.

Queensland and New South Wales have a different set of laws and interpretations on counting time to Victoria. This has led to confusion, and numerous examples where drivers have been fined in Victoria for exceeding work hours, when indeed the same practices would be legal in other states.

It is expected that the joint industry/government Working Group will finalise its recommendations for change before August 2010.

Philip Lovel

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