Tax in­crease in­evitable

The dis­man­tling of FIRS will be an­other cost im­post on the Aus­tralian truck­ing in­dus­try

Owner Driver - - Natroad - War­ren Clark

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.

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