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THE National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) announced it had lodged a pre-budget submission with the Treasury outlining measures that focus on promoting small business and reducing inefficiencies in road freight.

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said the submission sets out eight policy priorities that should underpin the advancement of the road-transport industry, with one critical element in need of immediate attention.

“There has been a lot of talk about moving the heavy vehicle industry to a user-pays model,” he said.

“The ultimate aim of heavy vehicle road reform is to change the provision of heavy vehicle road infrastructure into an economic service.

“This would see a market established that links heavy vehicle user needs with the level of service they receive, the charges they pay and the investment of those charges back into heavy vehicle road services.”

However, Mr Clark said this could not occur without an appropriate agency guiding the process.

“NatRoad wants Treasury to make cost estimates and appropriate modelling for the establishment of an independent price regulator for the heavy vehicle industry,” he said.

“Alternatively, additional funding should be allocated to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to undertake the role of the independent price regulator for heavy vehicle road reform.

“We make the point that an independent pricing regulator should possess a broad regulatory role including regulating and monitoring toll fees and landside port charges, given the current lack of transparency and fairness in setting tolls and landside port charges for heavy vehicles. There are many elements of the system that need scrutiny by an independent regulator.”

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Additionally, Mr Clark said the government should give priority to the “engine room of the Australian economy: small business”.

“Transport operators in this country are predominantly small businesses,” he said.

“The government announcement that the threshold for the small business instant asset write-off has been increased to $25,000 is a very good start to assisting our sector.”

Mr Clark said 2019 was proving to be a watershed year for the industry, with political and economic forces likely to bring about deep-seated change.

“Where possible government needs to act so that the transport industry, as a pivotal economic driver, can generate positive multiplier effects such as better accessibility to markets and additional investment,” he said. “Adopting NatRoad’s suggestions will assist this aim.”

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