A transport industry alliance is calling on the Albanese Government to restore the fuel tax credits scheme abolished by its predecessor to prevent a collapse of national supply chains and a surge in deadly pressure on our roads, as road transport braces for cost spikes once the fuel excise returns in full in September.
In a joint letter to Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers, the TWU, ARTIO, NRFA and NatRoad say that rising operating costs are already impacting the sustainability of road transport, with drivers and operators on razor-thin margins being dangerously squeezed by those at the top of the supply chains and the Amazon Effect.
Fuel tax credits allowed drivers and operators to access an 18 cent per litre rebate on fuel; a system effectively abolished by the Morrison Government when it halved the fuel excise. In justifying the abolition of the rebate, the then Federal Government claimed road transport would still be four cents per litre better off, which paled in comparison to the 22 cents per litre enjoyed by other road users – effectively offering no relief for the workers and operators hit hardest by fuel spikes.
The alliance says that decades of research has shown direct links between rates of pay, operating costs and road safety. When costs skyrocket, the pressure increases across the industry to make up the difference, with reports of drivers working while fatigued, skipping breaks, overloading and delaying maintenance common within road transport.
In 2022 alone, 115 people have died in truck-involved crashes including 28 truck drivers.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said: “When you’ve got wealthy companies at the top wringing supply chains dry and gig behemoths like Amazon undercutting the industry, it’s never been harder to make a safe and decent living in road transport.
“Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg sold the industry a lemon when they promised fuel relief. This Prime Minister and Treasurer shouldn’t do the same. Until we have in place regulation to ensure effective cost recovery from wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies at the top of the chain, we’re calling on the Federal Government to restore the fuel tax credits system to ease the financial burden on drivers and operators across the country.”
National Secretary of the ARTIO Peter Anderson said: “A country as vast as ours will always be dependent on road transport to keep supply chains moving. Yet operators are being forced to grapple with a crisis not of their own making, absorbing exorbitant fuel costs to keep trucks running while they slip further and further into the red. It’s unsustainable and hardworking operators will go broke in September if they’re forced to cop another fuel hike”.
NRFA President Rod Hannifey said: “Road transport is at breaking joint. Drivers and operators can’t keep footing the bill for rising fuel costs. Not all can easily pass these costs on and it simply adds to the cost of living across Australia. It’s unsustainable and supply chains will soon grind to a halt if this new Federal Government doesn’t step in”.
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said: “Operator’s balance sheets since March have slipped further and further into the red. Reversing this trend will take national leadership to support the industry through sky-high fuel costs. The new Federal Government can’t delay restoring fuel tax credits or more operators will be forced to park up their trucks”.