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How we subsidise trucking industry

Beth Shelley recently points out that motorists subsidise the trucking industry.  She’s right, but she underestimates the extent of the swindle.

Large trucks typically weigh 50 times as much as a car, travel 50 times as far and take up 10 times as much space on the road.

If the average car pays around $200 annual registration, large trucks should be paying around $5 million – and more considering that the vehicle weight: road damage curve is not linear.

It’s surprising that more motorists aren’t furious about this and that proponents of rail don’t point it out.

If trucks had to ‘pay their way’, as trains are required to, then rail would suddenly look viable, repairing tracks and restoring rail services would be a no-brainer, commandeering our rail corridors for trails and carparks (like the one that just stealthily devoured the rail corridor behind Woolworths in Byron Bay) would suddenly look like the rip-offs they are and removing rail bridges (like the one at Binna Burra) so that bigger trucks can wreck local roads would look like the madness it is.

Alistair Bell, Byron Bay


4 responses to “How we subsidise trucking industry”

  1. Petrus says:

    It may be that the charges for road use by trucks are inadequate but there are some marked errors in your analysis that undermine your argument and suggest the under costing is not to the extent you argue. Trucks do cause more road damage than cars – modern cars cause very little damage to bitumen roads – and you are right it is linear but the key factors in high damage are overloading ad traveling at speed. Vehicles pay to use the road through road user charge and fuel excises. If we had indexed he latter properly from the time Howard and Costello reduced it we would have higher fuel prices that are similar to Europe and recover usage according to the km of use. Trucks do not take up 10 times as much space on the road; most of the space taken by any vehicle is the gap between it an the next vehicle. Even with a longer stopping distance trucks would take up somewhat less than twice the road space as a car being driven with the safe two to three second gap. In NZ where economic rationalist have for decades applied user pays very rigorously fuel prices are higher than here but road transport is still competitive with the private rail services. Even in Europe with its extensive rail services and high fuel prices road transport shifts a lot of the freight – it is difficult for rail to match the flexibility of road freight. In the case of the Northern Rivers much of the freight comes from Southern QLD. Even if the old rail services were reinstated you would need to either ship a longer distance from Brisbane via Kyogle and Casino or transfer the goods from road transport to rail (or if the rail was extended from the Gold Coast as is popularly suggested, from one gauge rail to another). And freight from wherever would face the same problem as for passengers – the corridor now only serves about 40% of the population, and does not serve the fastest growing coastal areas, passing through areas that for economic or political reasons have restricted growth. I support you in increasing fuel excise to the correct level, and we should tightly control loads and speeds, but that is not going to shift freight back to what was always a subsidized rail service in the Northern Rivers. Finally can I comment that the corridor is not being “commandeered” for a rail trail. It belongs to the people of NSW, not just to the residents along its length, and it s proposed that the NSW government allow it to be used for a rail trail that will bring economic benefits to the area and personal benefits to its potential users.

  2. Simon (billinudgel) says:

    I don’t think you have thought this through. I am not sure what you think trucks are doing on the road, I am sure they are not driving their children to school or popping down the shops for a litre of milk in their B double. They are people delivering many of the goods and services you use every day. Actually many of them work extremely long hours for what works out to be a pretty average return for their investment in expensive equipment. Trucks aren’t the problem you are the problem because you want fresh food delivered daily, 50 types of toilet paper, you want to furnish your house with overseas products, and drive to the local for a coffee, the paper and half a dozen stubbies. All this stuff comes on trucks and if you are prepared to pay several hundred times more for these items then your dream of having trucks “pay their way”. Will be achieved.

  3. Jim Beatson says:

    Much though I have sympathy for what Simon in Billinudget is saying I think he misses the point. Beth Shelley correctly points out that Byron Shire Council derives no share of the registration fees paid to the New South Wales State government by the companies running extremely heavy B doubles, semi trailers and coaches that travel on roads owned by Byron Shire Council. It is predominantly these very heavy vehicles that destroy the rock under base of our roads, not the much lighter cars that travel on them.

    For many years now supermarkets and petrol stations no longer warehouse at the local or even regional level. Warehousing now happens well outside our Shire at huge depots. The major supermarkets have at most three or four days of supplies on hand at any given time. Petrol stations I am told have two or three days of fuel on hand.

    As a result Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and petrol stations etc have very large numbers of these exceptionally heavy vehicles arriving after midnight unloading all night long until 6 AM.

    Sadly this is another example where local councils, including ours, have not demanded from our state government our share of road repair money which the state government keep for themselves. This has been going on for years.

    I have pointed this out at several community consultation sessions with Byron Shire Council.

    Councillors and Council staff, please correct me if I am wrong. I would be delighted to be found wrong.

    Jim Beatson, Byron Bay

  4. Petrus says:

    It may be that the charges for road use by trucks are inadequate but there are some marked errors in your analysis that undermine your argument and suggest the under costing is not to the extent you argue. Trucks do cause more road damage than cars – modern cars cause very little damage to bitumen roads – and you are right it is linear but the key factors in high damage are overloading ad traveling at speed. Vehicles pay to use the road through road user charge and fuel excises. If we had indexed the latter properly from the time Howard and Costello reduced it we would have higher fuel prices that are similar to Europe and recover usage according to the km of use. Trucks do not take up 10 times as much space on the road; most of the space taken by any vehicle is the gap between it an the next vehicle. Even with a longer stopping distance trucks would take up somewhat less than twice the road space as a car being driven with the safe two to three second gap. In NZ where economic rationalist have for decades applied user pays very rigorously fuel prices are higher than here but road transport is still competitive with the private rail services. Even in Europe with its extensive rail services and high fuel prices road transport shifts a lot of the freight – it is difficult for rail to match the flexibility of road freight. In the case of the Northern Rivers much of the freight comes from Southern QLD. Even if the old rail services were reinstated you would need to either ship a longer distance from Brisbane via Kyogle and Casino or transfer the goods from road transport to rail (or if the rail was extended from the Gold Coast as is popularly suggested, from one gauge rail to another). And freight from wherever would face the same problem as for passengers – the corridor now only serves about 40% of the population, and does not serve the fastest growing coastal areas, passing as it does through areas that for economic or political reasons have restricted growth. I support you in increasing fuel excise to the correct level, and we should tightly control loads and speeds, but that is not going to shift freight back to what was always a subsidized rail service in the Northern Rivers. Finally can I comment that the corridor is not being “commandeered” for a rail trail. It belongs to the people of NSW, not just to the residents along its length, and it s proposed that the NSW government allow it to be used for a rail trail that will bring economic benefits to the area and personal benefits to its potential users.

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