The truck driving industry has slammed Australia’s dominant toll-road operator Transurban for claiming it is “powerless” to cut fares on its network.
Speaking on the eve of his appearance before the New South Wales Legislative Council Inquiry into Tolling Regimes in Sydney today, National Road Transport Association CEO Warren Clark said Transurban boss Scott Charlton needs to backtrack on a statement he made in the media on September 20.
“Mr Charlton said the government sets the toll price and its annual rate of increases and they’re not his problems,” Mr Clark said.
“Nothing stops Transurban giving rebates or multi-use discounts to truck operators to encourage them to use its roads.
“Mr Charlton’s company just paid $11.1 billion for the purchase of the State Government’s remaining stake in WestConnex and made an 80 percent return on its shareholding last year.
“Most NatRoad members are owner-operators or small businesses working on a profit margin of 2.4 percent.
“By any stretch of the imagination, Transurban can afford to cut truck drivers a break.”
Mr Clark said the heavy vehicle industry had been “knocked from pillar to post” by rising costs during the pandemic but had kept essential goods and services moving.
“If government and toll operators want to get trucks back onto tollways, they need to provide some relief,” he said.
“Variable toll rates for off-peak journeys or discounts for multiple journeys would be one very practical way of keeping trucks off suburban streets, improving environmental outcomes and making travel less congested and safer.”
NatRoad will give evidence that annual toll bills of up to $100,000 are not unknown in Sydney, and one of its member companies pays more in tolls for a round trip between the Western Suburbs and the Northern Beaches that it does in driver wages for the round trip.
“Trucks attract tolls that are generally three times greater than those for cars, and up to 11 times more than a motorist in registration charges,” Mr Clark said.
“With the exception of the Harbour Bridge, every Sydney toll road is run by private companies, and all but two are operated by Transurban.
“We want incentives for heavy vehicles to use toll roads and for the State Government to appoint an independent regulator to impose fair and consistent pricing rules to each toll road.
“Tolling companies should only be able to apply higher charges on tollways if they can show they are delivering improvements.”