Tuesday 4 April 2023

Australia quietly runs the National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot - manual option

The Australian Commonwealth Government has been undertaking a programme of trialling distance and weight based road user charging (RUC) for heavy vehicles.  It ran a small-scale trial in 2019-2020 using existing telematics equipment, which was evaluated here.  Now the large-scale trial, manual technology component, was launched quietly by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts (DITRDCA) in July 2022 and will run until the middle of the year.  It uses hubodometers, installed on powered units and trailers, with prepaid permits. It has parallels to New Zealand's long established Road User Charge system that has applied to heavy vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes) and light diesel vehicles. since 1978.  The graphic below depicts how the manual pilot works.

Australia's National Heavy Vehicle RUC pilot manual permit based system

Participants "buy" a permit (no real money is exchanged) for distance travelled, enabling participants to compare what they pay to stay up to date with distance permits, compared to what they pay in fuel tax and registration fees under the current system.

The video below includes segments from some of the trial participants.

This is not the only part of the trial, as a telematics based trial is due to start later this year, using a mix of new and existing on-board telematics systems on a range of trucks and buses.

The purpose of the trial is to gather data about various types of operators, obtain feedback on their experiences of the technological option and what operators think of paying by distance rather than tax on fuel and the high Australian registration fees for heavy vehicles.

The findings will be interesting and should inform decisions about whether to proceed with reforms to replace the fuel tax and registration based system (known as PAYGO or fuel based RUC), with a distance, weight and configuration based road user charge.

Disclosure: Milestone Pacific Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of CDM Smith) has been a technical advisor to DITRDCA on the National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot since 2019.  I have been leading that advice.