Infrastructure Minister Catherine King is refusing to say if Labor will provide help to the struggling trucking sector, despite calls to reinstate the diesel fuel tax credit or risk losing more than half of the industry’s operators

South Australian Road Transport Association executive officer Steve Shearer warned the decision by the Morrison government to cull the 17.8 cent tax credit as part of the federal budget could have catastrophic consequences if not reintroduced ahead of the July 1 deadline.

Before the March budget, trucker drivers received a tax credit of 17.8c/litre: the difference between the 44.2c/litre fuel excise and the government’s 26.2c/litre road-user charge.

But the decision to halve the fuel excise meant truckers drivers now only receive a 4.3c/litre reduction in their diesel bills, meaning they will only receive a quarter of what they were expecting.

With truck drivers due to pay their quarterly business activity statement tax obligations by September 30, many operators are facing a massive financial shortfall. Mr Shearer said three-quarters of operators had been unable to recoup the difference, and the SARTA survey indicated 57 per cent of respondents said they could be faced with bankruptcy.

Despite the pressing deadline, Ms King declined to say whether a lifeline would be offered to operators, instead saying the government was “engaging closely” with the industry in a bid to find a solution, but warned any solution would not happen in a “few short weeks”.

“While the fuel tax credits are legislated to automatically return to businesses as usual when the excise returns in September, we recognise this arrangement is having a real impact on the industry, especially smaller operators and owner-drivers,” Ms King told The Australian.

Ms King lashed out at the previous Coalition government for not being “honest and upfront” about how changes to the fuel excise would impact owner-drivers and transport companies.

The problem has been compounded by soaring fuel prices, with diesel and unleaded 91 fuel prices soaring from around $1.40 per/litre in June last year to just over $2/litre for petrol and $2.15/litre for diesel.

Fuel prices have risen above the point when the fuel excise was halved.

Australian Food & Grocery Council chief executive Tanya Barden said the problem of rising fuel prices was being felt across the supply chain. In May, some of AGFC’s members saw packing costs rise by up to 20 per cent; fuel costs had risen by 10 to 15 per cent and “continue to rise”.

“We know that packaging manufacturers are now applying energy surcharges to the price of packaging and there will be more rises to come. Input costs are not stabilising for food and grocery manufacturers and we haven’t seen the peak,” Ms Barden said.

Extracted in full form: Truckies facing ruin over diesel tax credit (