Government invites heavy vehicle industry to participate in road reform trials

The Federal Government said on 15 December that it intends to invite the heavy vehicle industry to participate in a National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot.

Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher MP, sad participants involved in the pilot program will test the replacement of registration fees and the fuel-based Road User Charge, with a national direct user charge for the vehicles participating in the pilot.

The pilot will run initially through to 2020 and will allow heavy vehicle operators to test, influence and shape a fairer system.

The first two stages of the pilot will be research-based, focussing on working with the heavy vehicle industry to develop the options to pilot. It will not involve participants paying additional or alternative charges as part of the trial.

The Government will also be establishing a business case program for location-based trials of distance charging for heavy vehicles. Under this program, which will commence in 2018-19, the Government would fund business cases for trials in specific geographical regions – where there may be an appetite by the heavy vehicle industry to agree to additional per kilometre charges, over and above what they are paying through the fuel excise system, where those charges are linked to specific benefits to the heavy vehicle industry.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) said the Federal Government’s announcement that it will conduct a voluntary trial of a new road charging system designed to replace the current Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) system will be welcomed by industry.

“This announcement represents progress on a reform which ALC and many in the freight logistics industry have long supported as vital to improving the efficiency of our road networks and freight movement,” said ALC Managing Director, Michael Kilgariff.

“Throughout ALC’s engagement with leading industry participants on the preparation of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, there has been a high degree of support for a fairer road pricing and investment model where road users pay according to where and when they travel, and where funds raised through heavy vehicle charges are actually invested in the infrastructure used by heavy vehicles.

“This was clearly noted in Freight Doesn’t Vote, ALC’s major submission to the Discussion Paper on National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.

“The current PAYGO system relies on a mix of registration fees and fuel taxes to fund road infrastructure. But these blunt instruments are insufficiently dynamic to properly align the needs of road users, the road charges they pay and investment in road infrastructure.

“For many road transport operators, PAYGO represents an analogue approach to an increasingly digital transport world.

“The national economic benefits of Heavy Vehicle Road Reform are considerable, with estimates ranging from $8 billion to $22 billion over 20 years. That’s why it is important to get the National Pilot right, so that industry has confidence it will share in these benefits.

“Accordingly, ALC welcomes the Government’s confirmation of the core principle underpinning this trial – that the productivity benefits of any new system will exceed the cost of any additional charges. Industry support will rely on this principle being upheld.

“ALC looks forward to actively engaging with the Federal Government and industry throughout all stages of the National Pilot to ensure its success,” he said.

New Zealand telematics specialist ERoad has welcomed the minister’s announcement as it demonstrates a clear pathway and timetable towards a potential sustainable distance-based heavy vehicle road charging mechanism.

ERoad Chairman, Michael Busby, said the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the freight sector is moving faster than forecasted and Tesla’s announcement that it will bring its electric semi-truck to market in 2019 further drives the need for all heavy vehicles to be contributing to the funding for road infrastructure.

Bushby also said ERoad would be pleased to assist the Australian Government with both the National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot and local heavy vehicle trials, and to demonstrate the heavy vehicle charging methods implemented in other jurisdictions.

“We are well positioned to help on a strategic or operational level, bringing our experience in successfully deploying heavy vehicle road charging in Oregon and New Zealand, and in the recent California Road Charge Pilot,” he said.

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