Road User Charge should be paired with CPI

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The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) is using its 2024-25 Budget submission to ask the Albanese Government to put downward pressure on future increases to road user and registration charges. 

NatRoad wants the government to implement a budget specifically for Commonwealth-State infrastructure projects and to peg rises in the Road User Charge against it, based on annual reviews of the effectiveness of its spending. 

“Enough is enough – Australia’s road freight transport industry is enduring the most difficult economic and regulatory operating environment in living memory,” said NatRoad Chief Executive Officer Warren Clark. 

“Most of the transport sector are small businesses working on tight margins with limited economic bargaining power to pass on costs. 

“The existing heavy vehicle road user charging system is broken.  

“Increases are driven by rises in infrastructure funding, with no regard for its effectiveness, the ability of industry to pay, or ensuring the right priorities are being funded. 

“NatRoad welcomes the Government’s attempt to repair the infrastructure pipeline and recognition there is a tipping point where too much spending results in increased contract competition and costs.  

“Basically, the value for money spent reduces drastically. 

“These costs then translate into a subsequent increase in the road user charge that is well above CPI.” 

Mr Clark said NatRoad wants a cap on the infrastructure funding and heavy vehicle cost base that rises with inflation.  

“The cap would be subject to review ensuring inadequate road quality is maintained,” Mr Clark said. 

“Additional funding outside of the road user charge would still be possible to address specific issues such as natural disaster damage to the network.  

“Governments, including the states and territories, could maximise the effectiveness of infrastructure funding by improving the selection and delivery of their projects. 

“They should also get serious about delivering National Road Service Level Standards to make sure funding is going to where it is needed most.” 

NatRoad has repeated its call, made in its Decarbonisation White Paper, for the establishment of a $3.5 billion Clean Transport Fund to assist the road freight industry transition to net zero. 

It also wants practical action to reduce red tape by ramping up investment in better heavy vehicle road access like the planned National Automated Access System. 

“The Government needs to roll out rapid economic appraisals for the opening up as-of-right access and extend the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project to improve access decision making,” Mr Clark said.