Tax increase inevitable
The dismantling of FIRS will be another cost impost on the Australian trucking industry
WHEN IT COMES to purchasing a new truck one of the major considerations for operators is whole-of-life costs – in fact, according to a Truck Industry Council survey of truck customers, whole-of-life costs and repair and maintenance costs were the main factors that influenced their decision.
For owner-drivers, the purchase of a new truck is a significant outlay that can impact severely on their bottom line. Yet we know we need to renew the Australian truck fleet. Newer trucks can increase productivity, improve safety and reduce emissions.
Despite the truck fleet requiring modernisation, the Australian Parliament recently passed the Interstate Road Transport Legislation (Repeal) Bill 2018 with the support of both the Government and Opposition. This legislation closes the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) to new entrants and re-registration by existing FIRS operators from July 1, 2018. From this date, existing FIRS operators will be eligible for a one-off stamp duty exemption until June 30, 2019 when full closure to all operators takes effect.
NatRoad is very disappointed that despite our strong opposition the Government has decided to discontinue FIRS.
It has been operating since 1987 as a voluntary, alternative national registration scheme for heavy vehicles solely involved in transporting goods interstate. Abolishing FIRS will remove stamp duty exemptions and result in a $6.2 million annual tax increase on new heavy vehicles.
NatRoad has lobbied strongly against the closure of FIRS for over a year. We lodged a detailed submission on the closure of FIRS in October 2017.
The submission argued that FIRS should be retained because it encourages operators to replace older trucks with safer, less polluting and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
New truck affordability
Before making this submission, NatRoad spoke with operators to determine whether FIRS positively impacted on their capacity to make a new truck purchase. Operators of all sizes, including owner-drivers, told us that without FIRS it would be more difficult to afford the purchase of a new vehicle.
The number of operators accessing the FIRS has fallen over the years, but NatRoad contends this shows it has been poorly promoted, rather than it becoming less relevant to the road freight industry.
Therefore, we called for FIRS to be rejuvenated rather than scrapped. Improvements in promotion, design and governance of FIRS would to increase participation and ensure the scheme meets its objective of driving productivity through ongoing modernisation of Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet. NatRoad will continue to advocate for measures that help operators of all size access high-productivity vehicles.
Another ghost that haunts the industry, particularly owner-drivers, has raised its ugly head in recent times. In April, Federal Labor announced that if elected it would seek to resurrect the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to set pay and conditions for truck drivers. NatRoad will vigorously oppose any move to resurrect the failed RSRT.