Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s fuel excise cut has failed to deliver any relief to truckies working on razor thin margins, with drivers saving less than $20 on each 400 litre tank, as the union renews calls to scrap road user charges for heavy vehicle operators during the oil price hike.
Under typical arrangements, heavy vehicle users receive a fuel tax credit (FTC), to help recoup the cost of the fuel excise. While heavy vehicles on private roads, such as mines and farms, get the excise waved entirely, heavy vehicles on public roads get their FTC at a reduced rate and are required to pay a road user charge (RUC).
The RUC typically is 26 cents per litre, or roughly $104 per 400 litre tank.
In the Budget, the Morrison Government halved the fuel excise to 22 cents but left existing RUC arrangements. This means heavy vehicle users required to pay the RUC are now paying 22 cents per litre, or roughly $88 per 400 litre tank. Given the average full tank of fuel costs between $900 and $1000, a saving of less than $20 is largely meaningless, says Transport Workers Union assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh.
“Owner drivers and transport operators are already working on razor-thin margins – they need meaningful relief from surging oil prices. A saving of 4 cents a litre, when you’re filling up a 400 litre tank, equates to less than $20 off on a $1000 fuel bill – it’s nothing.
“Crippling fuel costs means doing more with less to make ends meet, and in transport that is deadly. Whether it is driving longer hours on less sleep, bigger loads and fewer breaks, or longer distances between proper services and maintenance – at every point shrinking margins means a compromise on safety.”
According to a TWU survey conducted in 2021, three in four owner drivers had worked for no profit and nearly two thirds were constantly worried they would need to sell their truck to get by. More than half said they had been forced to delay maintenance to their trucks because they could not afford it.
Prior to the budget the TWU wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to scrap the excise for heavy vehicle operators. The union outlined that an absence of regulation to ensure rising operational costs are absorbed by wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of supply chains means owner-operators bear the burden of oil price hikes alone.
Following the budget and the Morrison government’s failure to address the concern the union has renewed its call for the government to provide financial assistance to transport businesses and owner drivers to recover rising fuel costs to keep supply chains safely running.
“The squeeze on transport contracts from the top of supply chains pressures operators and drivers to delay maintenance, speed, overload trucks and drive fatigued. The pandemic, flooding and now rising fuel costs have exacerbated the deadly pressures on truck drivers,” Mr McIntosh said.
“Morrison must urgently address the fuel pressures being felt by drivers and transport operators – the viability of transport businesses this country relies on it. We need protection for essential transport businesses and to save lives on our roads.”
The TWU has also slammed the recently announced Road and Rail Supply Chain Review as farcical for deliberately putting the transport workforce “out of scope”. The TWU has been calling on the Federal Government to sign up to a set of supply chain principles to protect essential industries against external shocks like covid variants, flooding and global supply chain disruption.