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Big utes under threat as Aussie council moves closer to new tax on 'nerve-racking' mega trucks

Councillor Sophie Wade of Melbourne's City of Yarra says making parking spaces bigger for US-style trucks is merely 'pretending the problem doesn't exist'.

A bustling, inner-city council area could be the first in Australia to crack down on the nation's surge in oversized SUVs as it moved a step closer to imposing a tax on owners of big vehicles.

Greens Councillor Sophie Wade for City of Yarra council, which is home to hundreds of densely populated and tight streets across several Melbourne suburbs like Fitzroy and Richmond, says enough is enough and action is needed to protect the community from large vehicles, namely American-style pick-up trucks by manufacturers such as RAM and Ford.

"We've got streets that just weren't designed for this kind of vehicle," she told Yahoo News Australia. "They're narrow, we've got lots of pedestrians, cyclists, shoppers on busy shopping strips, lots of kids getting to school and childcare. It's nerve-racking having these big giant vehicles bearing down on you."

Councillor Wade put forward a notice of motion on Tuesday night asking council to acknowledge the risk the increase in bigger vehicles has on the community while committing to exploring ways to discourage such vehicles.

Councillor calls inner-city Hummer owners 'idiots'

Cllr Wade confirmed the motion passed unanimously, taking the local government area a step closer to restrictions on large SUVs. Councillor Stephen Jolly amended the motion to ensure the council "acts on facts", noting he believed the far-left area most likely had very few owners of the vehicles. During the council meeting he said anyone who buys a Hummer in the area is an "absolute idiot".

Councillor looking to follow Paris with major parking change

One tactic Cllr Wade is keen to adopt is a parking tax on big SUVs – a major step residents in Paris recently voted for, slugging SUV drivers $30 an hour to park in the CBD. She said such a move to tax vehicles based on their size and weight would come with "appropriate" exclusions for drivers of electric vehicles and disabled people who require bigger vehicles, for example.

A photo Councillor Wade shared from the US showing the size of a Chevrolet pick-up truck next to two young children. Source: Streets For All
A photo Councillor Wade shared from the US showing the size of a Chevrolet pick-up truck next to two young children. Source: Streets For All

Urban Development expert Dr Christopher Standen at the University of NSW previously told Yahoo while such a move in Australia "sounds like a good idea", it may not be as effective as desired due to the sheer number of private parking available. However one of Cllr Wade's biggest concerns is visibility of both pedestrians and drivers while these vehicles are parked on the street, noting children – and even adults – can't see beyond them when looking to cross busy roads.

Not only are opponents of the vehicles arguing they pose a safety risk, their emissions and impact on the road surface are also reasons put forward to tax the vehicles.

More and more Australians using big vehicles for daily life

Data shared by The Australia Institute in January shows while there are more than 7 million SUVs and utes on our roads nationally, less than half were used by tradies or for towing boat trailers or caravans, meaning more and more Australians are using big cars to simply get around. According to car sales data, the list of top selling cars in 2023 was dominated by larger vehicles.

Economist Jack Thrower at the public policy think tank explained the surge in these "behemoths" being used as everyday vehicles was in part down to favourable tax settings which favour more expensive – and larger – vehicles.

"Missing from this whole stupid 'debate' is that one of the big reasons these giant utes are among the top selling cars is because of the instant asset tax write off the Morrison-Frydenberg government instituted," Guardian Australia journalist Amy Remeikis fumed online last month.

A RAM truck protruding from an Australian car park space.
One RAM vehicle simply couldn't fit into a standard space recently. Source: Facebook

The Australia Institute believes governments should be looking at varying taxes on new vehicles according to their weight and fuel efficiency. Cllr Wade agrees, saying the Federal Government needs to look at the issue "pretty closely" having let it "pass them by".

The emergence of these vehicles have proven extremely divisive on Australian roads, with owners of the vehicles vehemently defending them. Chris Maujean is the owner of a US-style pick-up truck and argued the vehicles have been painted in a bad light, partially thanks to a minority of drivers being inconsiderate with how they park. "I think it’s just about being considerate... you've got to be aware of other people and pick your spots," he told Yahoo.

Australia shouldn't accomodate big vehicles due to safety fears, councillor says

While Standards Australia has called for larger parking spaces in Australia to accomodate the increase in bigger vehicles, The Australia Institute said such a move to do so and also widen Australian roads would be of "great expense and to the detriment of urban greenery".

Cllr Wade said simply adapting for such vehicles was "pretending the problem doesn't exist".

"When you've got stats that show SUVs are eight times more likely to kill a child when they hit them than standard cars, I think that's the sort of thing you shouldn't try and accomodate."

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