Truck­ies worry over ru­ral usage charges

NewsMail - Wide Bay Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - Alexan­dra Laskie news@ru­ral­weekly.com

ROAD freight op­er­a­tors fear they could be slugged more to use ru­ral roads as part of a na­tional over­haul of heavy ve­hi­cle fees.

Truck­ing in­dus­try bod­ies say if a “user charges” scheme is im­ple­mented, freight com­pa­nies that use lo­cal ru­ral roads would be “un­fairly” charged more than those whose busi­nesses largely re­lied on ar­te­rial roads be­cause of the ad­di­tional road wear and tear.

Aus­tralian Live­stock and Ru­ral Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mathew Munro said “it would be prob­lem­atic” if a user charges model such as a mass-dis­tance-lo­ca­tion scheme was in­tro­duced, which is based on a truck’s weight, dis­tance trav­elled and roads used, with­out con­sid­er­a­tion for lo­cal coun­try roads. He said manda­tory com­mu­nity ser­vice obli­ga­tions for ru­ral roads that con­nected pri­mary pro­duc­ers to the ar­te­rial road net­work, not to men­tion their com­mu­ni­ties, was vi­tal.

Mr Munro said roads that gave ac­cess to re­mote farms must be pro­vided on a sub­sidised ba­sis, “Be­cause in many cases they won’t be eco­nom­i­cally (vi­able) in their own right, but they pro­vide a vi­tal ser­vice.” He said the as­so­ci­a­tion would rather a fuel-based charg­ing mech­a­nism. The goal of the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Road Re­form – cur­rently be­ing un­der­taken by the Trans­port In­fras­truc­ture Coun­cil – is to shift to a sys­tem where heavy ve­hi­cle in­fras­truc­ture is pro­vided as an eco­nomic ser­vice.

Live­stock and Ru­ral Trans­porters As­so­ci­a­tion of Vic­to­ria pres­i­dent Gra­ham Howell warned that with­out a strong com­mu­nity ser­vice obli­ga­tion frame­work, the higher charges for truck­ing com­pa­nies that used ru­ral roads un­der an MDL scheme could be passed on to pri­mary pro­duc­ers.

“That’s our con­cern, and if we’re get­ting charged more then we’ve got to put it back on the pro­ducer to cover our costs, so in the long run it’s go­ing to make pri­mary pro­ducer freight a lot dearer,” Mr Howell said. Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion’s eco­nomic and farm busi­ness com­mit­tee chair­man Wayne Dun­ford said a user-pays model was not ap­pro­pri­ate for ru­ral roads as the vol­ume of traffic was not enough to fund their main­te­nance.

“If the Gov­ern­ment wants an agri­cul­ture in­dus­try, the en­tire road net­work has to be main­tained, and that starts with the lit­tle shire lanes that lead to the saleyards, the ports … a user pays model will never main­tain them so it has to be funded in other ways,” Mr Dun­ford said.

Fed­eral Trans­port Min­is­ter Dar­ren Ch­ester said the Gov­ern­ment was con­sid­er­ing an in­de­pen­dent price reg­u­la­tor to set heavy ve­hi­cle charges.

PHOTO: TRAVELLINGLIGHT

CON­CERNS: Truck­ing groups say pri­mary pro­duc­ers could feel the brunt of a ru­ral usage slug.

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