Queensland's peak livestock and rural transport body is calling for a level playing field in vehicle registration costs, following reports of businesses using primary producer discounts to operate on a commercial basis.
It comes after the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) recently intercepted 40 vehicles and discovered that 10 per cent were misusing primary producer registration in the Toowoomba region.
Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland president Gerard Johnson of Gerard Johnson Transport said the body was not opposed to such arrangements when used lawfully.
Mr Johnson said it was now at the point where primary producer vehicles were competing "unfairly" with commercial carriers.
"People are using it for a commercial operation, which it wasn't really designed for," he said.
"We don't have a problem with the law, but its getting to a stage I think where some people in the transport industry are probably starting to use it if they can, because it's an advantage by doing so.
"All we're asking for is a level playing field and increased enforcement to make sure people are doing the right thing by it."
Mr Johnson said a cost-effective solution would be to include a concessional signifier on the national heavy vehicle plate.
"The LRTAQ considers that it would be relatively easy and cost-effective to include a concessional signifier on the national heavy vehicle plate," he said.
"Ideally, concessional plates would be a different colour to enable immediate identification.
"This would make it easy for enforcement authorities and competing operators to immediately recognise these vehicles."
The LRTAQ also flagged an idea that primary producer registration schemes should be either limited to vehicles of 12.0 tonnes or less.
"The existence of the registration concession has motivated primary producers to invest in increasingly larger commercial combinations," he said.
"Many farmers now own prime movers and semi-trailers, with some even operating road train fleets.
"For instance, a large feedlot may own several multi-combination vehicles to regularly bring livestock, feed and other essentials to and from the property.
"The vast majority of the distance travelled by these vehicles occurs on publicly funded roads.
"These vehicles consume the road asset in the same fashion as commercial vehicles yet do not pay sufficient registration fees to fund construction and maintenance of the road asset."
Alister Clarke of Gracemere Livestock Transport has been transporting cattle in the industry for 18 years, and in the last 12 months registration fees and insurance had skyrocketed.
Mr Clarke said rising fuel, registrations and insurance costs are making it frustrating for local truck drivers who are now having to compete with "unfair competition".
He is calling on the state government to extend the concessional scheme to all vehicles that exclusively carry primary produce.
"Extending the concessional scheme to commercial livestock carriers would significantly reduce transport costs for farmers and allow commercial operators to then pass those savings on to graziers," he said.
"It would create a level playing field for commercial and non-commercial vehicle operators, and improve vehicle safety by increasing the proportion of vehicles maintained by professional carriers."
Mr Clarke also said users on the primary concession scheme also require less safety checks, compared to commercial users.
"Commercial operators undergo mandatory yearly vehicle inspections and are subject to roadside compliance checks," he said.
"Primary producer registered vehicles only have vehicle inspections once every two years.
"Commercial operators must maintain transit insurance, whereas primary producers are not required to maintain transit insurance."
A spokesperson for DTMR said they understood the concerns raised but to date significant numbers of non-compliance had not been found.
"The primary producer concession is a long-standing Queensland Government scheme provided to financially assist producers who operate in an often challenging industry," the spokesperson said.
"We undertake regular enforcement activities on the primary producer concession scheme and investigate when specific complaints are made. Penalties are issued when non-compliance is found."
The spokesperson said the department does not believe a national concessional plate would reduce issues, but would review the scheme based on issues that have been presented by the industry.
"Compliance officers already have access to technology and information to identify vehicles," they said.
"(DTMR) have engaged a range of stakeholders, including those from the commercial transport sector such as the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Queensland.
"We look forward to continuing to work with the sector on this."
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