National heavy vehicle charges came under the spotlight at the recent 12th meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council after it acknowledged the growing gap between road expenditure and revenue from charges resulting from increased government investment in roads.
The Council identified a preference for charges to rise by 2.5 per cent in 2020-21 and 2.5 per cent in 2021-22 subject as it was to consideration by governments when necessary.
Having essentially been frozen since 2014, national heavy vehicle charges are designed to recover the heavy vehicle share of road expenditure.
The Council, in reaching its position, said it was very mindful of the challenges faced by transport industry operators, having sought the views of industry representatives earlier in the day.
Following recommendations from the National Transport Commission (NTC), the Council noted the charge increases would be significantly less than the amount of 11.4% estimated by the NTC as necessary to recover the heavy vehicle share of recent road construction and maintenance costs.
Council also directed the NTC to undertake a determination to review the method for calculating heavy vehicle charges.
"This will ensure future decisions on charges recover the correct amount from each heavy vehicle type," it said in a statement.
"Industry and stakeholder consultation will be central to the determination process."
In regard to the forthcoming implementation of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, the Council endorsed the arrangements presented by each jurisdiction to implement the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy and associated National Action Plan.
"The Strategy’s governance arrangements will provide a mechanism to ratchet up ambition over time and further support the performance of our freight system," the Council said.
The Transport and Infrastructure Council comprises Transport, Infrastructure and Planning Ministers from the Commonwealth, States and Territories, New Zealand and the Australian Local Government Association.
Council held a pre-meeting industry consultation session where ministers heard from Australian business about their experience deploying new technologies – connected and automated vehicles, low and zero emissions vehicles, intelligent transport systems, and freight and mass transit systems.
The Minister's discussion was informed by the session with industry in which the actions governments and others needed to take were outlined to realise the opportunities new technologies offer to improve safety, productivity, accessibility and sustainability.
Ministers stressed the significance of having a nationally consistent approach to connected and automated vehicles and agreed that it required collaborative and coordinated action by all tiers of government, in partnership with industry and others.
Council also considered the many initiatives at present underway to address the network consequences of increased uptake of low and zero emissions vehicles including the Commonwealth’s National Electric Vehicle Strategy as well as state and territory government strategies and the Council’s Low and Zero Emissions Vehicles Action Plan.
Ministers committed to continuing their efforts to encourage purchases of low and zero emissions vehicles and crucially preparing the electricity grid for a larger electric vehicle fleet in addition to coordinated rollout of charging infrastructure.
Convening council members included Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport, Scott Buchholtz, NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey, New Zealand Minister Minster for Transport; Minister for Economic Development; Minister for Urban Development, Phil Twyford.
In other news, the Council agreed to amend the Australian Vehicle Standards Rules to ensure it remained contemporary and to "improve harmonisation" and included changes to Australian Vehicle Standards Rules so that light and heavy vehicle standards align with the Australian Design Rules and allow for safety improvements to vehicles, including for heavy vehicles to be fitted with a front safety mirror to improve driver visibility;