NSW has the highest road taxes in Australia, plus that iniquitous fuel levy that was imposed in 1995 and was supposed to have been abolished one year later but was not. Despite the cost of car registration, driver licences and literally every other expense levied by the NSW government that is grossly higher than in any other state, the roads are appalling. Not only that, the NSW government receives all GST revenue from fuel sales and the federal government rips off 38 cents from every litre of fuel sold, but only returns 9 cents to motorists for road infrastructure. Motorists in other states suffer similar rip-offs.
What is worse is that even with the huge cash flow from taxes and charges connected with driving, state governments are incapable of funding decent freeways. They have resorted to contracting the building of such roads to private consortiums, which operate them as toll roads. In some cases, the government has actually turned over to those contractors parts of roads that were already built and paid for by taxpayers, who now have to pay tolls to drive on those roads that they previously owned.
Not only that, governments have embarked on a policy of trying to force motorists to use tollways instead of free roads, by adopting some despicable strategies, to the detriment of taxpaying drivers. Some through roads have been blocked to force motorists to either use expensive tollways or drive a lot further than they did before those roads were blocked. Roads have been narrowed to increase congestion, so as to make motorists drive on tollways, rather than be stuck in traffic on those narrower roads. Exclusive bus lanes have been established to cut down the number of available lanes to motorists. In all, governments in collusion with toll road consortiums have been acting against the interests of drivers.
The idea of forcing motorists to submit to electronic tolling instead of paying cash at toll booths is not mainly to save money and time, as the government and toll road operators would like you to believe. It is a very carefully crafted technique of social engineering that seems to be working, fooling most motorists and lulling them into a state of complacency while they are getting ripped off royally.
This social engineering is designed is to stop motorists realising what it is costing them to use those toll roads at the times that they are being charged. For instance, if a motorist drove from Castle Hill to Sydney Airport and had to dip in his pocket at the M2 Tollway, the Lane Cove Tunnel, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and then on the way back, fork out cash at the Eastern Distributor, Lane Cove Tunnel and the M2 Tollway, he would find that this return trip just cost him over $28.
If that motorist made that trip five days per week to get to work, he would realise that he was blowing $140 per week just in tolls and in fact was paying a massive $7000 per year for the privilege of sitting on what are mobile parking lots most of the time, whereas he could spend a couple of extra minutes per day travelling on free roads and listening to some nice music and keeping that $7000 per year in his own pocket. Using this example, by avoiding toll roads, this equates to an increase in pay of $120 per week.
Electronic tolling breeds complacency. A motorist being pinged by the electronic highway robber called an e-tag reader doesn't notice, because he's not physically reaching into his pocket for that money, so he drives blithely on and only gets upset when he gets that quarterly toll statement and sees something like a whopping $500 to $1000 extracted from his credit card. Social engineering then kicks in and the motorist quickly forgets about the fact that he's just been cleaned out of a large sum of money that he could have avoided paying and he continues to drive on toll roads and gets ripped off some more.
Section 115 of the Australian Constitution states the following:
What this means is very simple. It asserts that the only legal tender for payments is what is known as "coin of the realm" or as we know it, cash. All other forms of payment, such as cheques, promissory notes, credit and debit cards and even bars of gold might be accepted by various entities, however that is completely by consent of the payer and payee. There is only one real and legal way to make an official payment and that is with Australian cash. The federal Australian Currency Act 1965 also specifies that the only form of legal payment is with Australian money, nothing else.
I actually proved this myself some years ago when the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) stopped accepting income tax cash payments over $1000 over the counter. That year, I owed around $3000 and although I could have easily sent the ATO a cheque, it annoyed me that the government could breach the Australian Constitution and the Australian Currency Act 1965 by demanding that I pay this $3000 by means other than legal tender.
So I contacted the ATO and told their representative that I had $3000 in small Australian notes ready to pay my income tax bill over the counter at my local post office, which is the way such cash payments were done up to that time. The ATO person said that post offices would not accept such large cash amounts over the counter and that I would have to pay by cheque. I proceeded to read him the relevant section of the Australian Constitution and sections of the Australian Currency Act 1965 and told him in no uncertain terms that if I offered to pay my debt in "coin of the realm" and it was refused, then under the Law Of Torts, the debt would be forgiven and I would be most happy to keep my $3000.
The ATO person was quite flabbergasted and said that nobody had ever raised this issue, so I set him straight. I told him to either arrange to accept my $3000 in small bills at a particular time and place, or I would simply keep the money and the ATO would have to drag me to court and show that I still owed money even though I was prepared to pay it in cash - coin of the realm. Suffice it to say that the ATO promptly sent an official around to collect the $3000, proving that there is only one form of legal tender and that is cash.
In regard to toll roads, what this means is that if there is no person at the tolling point or the entrance to a toll road to collect tolls in cash, then the toll road company cannot demand that a motorist must submit to electronic tolling. If motorists drive up to toll roads and are ready to offer payment of the toll road in cash, then it is up to the toll road operators to ensure that they have a representative to collect the toll in cash. No other payment is legal tender.
Under the Law Of Torts, if a payment for a debt is offered at the time the debt is incurred, such as at the start of a toll road or at a tolling point and it is refused, such as in the case of toll road operators not having people collecting tolls at toll roads, then the debt is legally forgiven and the motorist who uses that toll road can do so without paying. Furthermore, the motorist is not obliged to divert to another place to pay the toll in cash or by any other means or pay it via the Internet some time later.
All toll roads in Australia are an official part of the federal and state public road network. Thus under the Australian Constitution, Australians have the right to drive on any road in the nation, including toll roads. However, toll road operators cannot exclude motorists from driving on toll roads by making conditions such as demanding that motorists must submit to electronic tolling or pay tolls later by credit card. Neither of these payments are legal tender.
CARR has drafted a sample Toll Road Payment Avoidance Letter that can be be modified and sent to either the toll road operator or a state debt recovery entity if a notice to pay a toll is received. It is on the Downloads page. Motorists who decide to drive on toll roads and who cannot pay the tolls because there is nobody to collect them in cash should edit and send such a letter or email and refuse to pay the toll.
Despite the efforts of governments to force motorists to use toll roads, many drivers are deliberately avoiding them. In Sydney, the Cross-City Tunnel (CCT) is an excellent example of how people power can cripple such iniquitous schemes. The shortness of the CCT, coupled with the large toll, ensured that most motorists would avoid it at all costs. Literally one year after the CCT was opened, it went broke because of lack of patronage. The Lane Cove Tunnel (LCT) is in peril because despite the deliberate narrowing of Epping Road to try to funnel motorists into the LLC, many preferred to tolerate the slower trip through Lane Cove up to the Gore Hill Expressway to avoid the high toll. In Brisbane, the Airport Link toll road is going broke because motorists are boycotting it.
Motorists need to fight back against the disgusting road policies of state governments. Short of kicking those fools out of office and electing politicians with the interests of citizens at heart, motorists can use the power of the boycott very effectively. The CCT has already felt the brunt of angry motorists that refuse to use it and it is now bankrupt. The LCT hopefully will go the same way, as will the Brisbane Airport Link. Then governments may be forced to take those toll roads back from the consortiums and turn them into freeways, as they should have been in the first place.
AVOID TOLL ROADS AT ALL TIMES - Just be proactive and ensure that you allow enough time for you to use free roads to get to your destination at the same time as if you had driven on a toll road. In many cases, the difference is only a few minutes. Here are some examples from Sydney.
According to GPS data, the trip from Beecroft in the northwest of Sydney to Sydney International Airport takes approximately 40 minutes using the M2 Motorway, Lane Cove Tunnel, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Eastern Distributor. As of March 2014, the tolls for the return trip amount to a whopping $28.51.
To do the same trip avoiding the tollways takes 46 minutes each way. So for an extra 6 minutes each way, you can save $28.51. This is serious money, especially if you make this trip frequently. If you have to make this return trip every weekday, avoiding the toll roads will save you $142.55 per week or more than $7000 per year. Under the congestion toll increase for the Sydney Harbour crossing, if you drive south across the Bridge or Tunnel in peak hours, you can add another dollar to each trip, which is another $250 per year on your bill.
Another example is a trip from North Ryde to the start of the M5 Freeway at Prestons. The time difference between using the M2 and M7 tollways and avoiding them is negligible. Driving on those tollways takes 40 minutes and the distance is around 43km. As of March 2014, the tolls for the return trip amount to a whopping $27.14
To do the same trip avoiding those tollways takes 50 minutes each way and the distance is around 42km. So for an extra 10 minutes each way, you can save $27.14 for the return trip. If you have to make this return trip every weekday, just like the trip to the airport, avoiding these toll roads will save you over $6700 per year.
There is another way of looking at this. If you have to spend 10 minutes extra each way driving on public roads, rather than going on the M2 and M7 toll roads for around $27, that equates to $80 per hour. If you were working for this rate of pay, you would be earning $640 for an 8 hour day or $3200 for a 40 hour week. So stop and think about it. Do you earn $3200 per week? If not, you are paying somebody else this equivalent every time you drive on those toll roads.
Many motorists drive from the Pennant Hills area to the west of Sydney and back. To use the M7 Tollway, the return trip costs $20.98 and the distance is 34km each way. The driving time is around 30 minutes each way.
However, to make the same return trip by avoiding the M7 Tollway and driving along Old Northern Road, Cumberland Highway and the M4 Freeway via Wentworthville costs nothing in tolls. The distance is 34km and the time taken each way is 35 minutes, only 5 minutes longer than using the M7 route. Is it worth forking out nearly $21 to save 10 minutes for the return trip? Nobody in their right mind would agree with that.
A typical everyday work trip for many people is from the north-western suburbs of Sydney to the Sydney CBD. In March 2014, using the M2 Tollway, Lane Cove Tunnel and the Sydney Harbour Bridge inbound costs $13.17. The return trip from Sydney CBD to Pennant Hills via the same route using the Sydney Harbour Bridge (no toll northbound), the Lane Cove Tunnel and the M2 Tollway costs $9.17, making the return trip each time a total of $22.34 per day or a massive $111.70 per week.
A typical CBD worker from Dural, Glenhaven, Cherrybrook or Pennant Hills who had to take a car to work every day for 50 weeks per year and used the tollways would pay over $5500 per year. But if that same person avoided the tollways, for a few extra minutes spent on non-tolled roads each day, he would save that ridiculous expense. For a tradesman earning $40,000 per year, this would equate to a 13.75% rise in pay.
But the most disgusting piece of highway robbery of them all has to be what is euphemistically called the Falcon Street Gateway in North Sydney. There are two tolled ramps - one northbound heading onto the Warringah Freeway at Falcon Street and Military Road, Neutral Bay and the other southbound heading from the Warringah Freeway onto Military Road. These are nothing more than 100 metre exits onto Falcon Street, yet motorists incur tolls just to get off free roads onto other free roads.
The best way to completely boycott this gigantic rip-off is for southbound drivers to merely exit the Gore Hill Freeway at the Pacific Highway exit and drive down to Falcon Street. Northbound drivers can use the RTA operated non-tolled northbound ramp heading from the harbour crossing and North Sydney onto Falcon Street, denying these rapacious highway robbers the revenue from access ramps that should be free.
There are some great tools you can use to make it easy to navigate to avoid toll roads:
TELL YOUR FRIENDS - Let your motorist friends know of your experiences and how you manage to save a lot of money and lose very little time by avoiding toll roads and hopefully they will do the same. Promote the idea wherever you go and it is surprising how such things catch on.
I have a friend who travels between his home and his two business premises on the other side of Melbourne five days per week. He was paying around $70 per week in tolls, which was over $3300 per year. He didn't even spend that amount on fuel and servicing his car. On a visit to Melbourne in 2008, I plotted out his route on my smartphone GPS application, firstly via toll roads and then by avoiding toll roads. It turned out that if he drove every day avoiding those toll roads, he would only add about 5 to 10 minutes to his trip each way.
He immediately bought a GPS receiver and now avoids those toll roads like the plague. Sacrificing a few minutes each way every day is saving him a lot of money. This has literally been the equivalent of him getting a $70 increase in income every week. My friend has told me that he doesn't even notice the negligible extra time it takes him to drive to work and back. In any event, during rush hours, the tollways are so congested and slow, that there is literally no time saved by using them and the hapless motorist still pays a lot of money for being stuck in traffic moving at a snail's pace.
I have been using GPS for a long time - TomTom Navigator loaded onto my smartphones since 2005 and more recently, the integrated GPS in my Mazda 6 Luxury Sports Hatch, as well as MetroView on my current iPhone 5 smartphone. Not only does it save me the effort of trying to navigate the hard way to venues where I perform by using a street directory and MetroView warning me of those dreadful rip-off speed and red light cameras, but I use the AVOID TOLL ROADS option at all times. I have found that by doing this, I might increase my driving time fractionally, almost unnoticeably in fact, but the monetary savings are enormous over the period of a year.
On average, I estimate that I save at least $3000 per year by avoiding toll roads and I would rather have that money in MY pocket than in the pockets of rapacious toll road operators. For instance, $3000 will get me a nice annual couple of weeks holiday in the USA, a damn sight better than giving that money to a toll road operator. And interestingly enough, on some occasions, a trip avoiding toll roads is actually quicker than driving on those costly routes.
I don't care about spending 10 minutes extra in the car each way going to and from Sydney Airport if I save over $28 each time. I don't care about spending 4 minutes extra each way going to the start of the M5 Freeway past Liverpool and back if I save myself over $27 each time. I ALWAYS boycott toll roads unless it is completely unavoidable and it pays off handsomely. I simply refuse to fork out $40 to $80 per week to drive on toll roads when I can avoid it.
I analysed my own expenses and travel for the 2009 to 2010 financial year and only when I crunched the numbers, did I appreciate how toll roads could have robbed me. For instance, my fuel bill alone cost me $2230 - a pretty decent sum of money, but I do drive a fair bit to my gigs. If I would have used toll roads in that period of time, I estimate that in that financial year, it would have cost me around $3000 in tolls. It's a bit hard to really work it out exactly, but there is the M2, M7, Lane Cove Tunnel and some of those other highway robbers like the Falcon Street ramp that I avoid at all times. Occasionally I travel to areas where I could use the M5 tollway, but I always avoid it too.
However, the tolls would have cost me a lot more than my fuel, which is crazy. If I had paid $3000 in tolls and $2230 in fuel, my expense for the year would have been $5230 - that's a whopping $100 per week or so. But by avoiding toll roads, I just paid petrol money - $46 per week. What a difference that is - paying $46 per week instead of $100 per week for the privilege of getting stuck on mobile parking lots, as a lot of those tollways are during rush hour.
Most motorists don't do the number-crunching exercise, so they get ripped off by toll roads and don't realise it. Sit down one day, add up what you have spent in fuel over 12 months, then drag out your toll accounts and add up what you blew in toll fees. For the average motorist in Sydney, the result may be a nasty shock. Some people don't mind paying to drive on those toll roads, but that is their choice and their money being squandered. As far as I am concerned, if an expense can be avoided, then it's worth avoiding it. Toll roads are easy to avoid and the amount of money saved is not just a few dollars - it's usually more than what you spend on fuel.
Of course sometimes it is very difficult to avoid toll roads such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel for people who live in the Northern Beaches areas and need to go to Sydney Airport or suburbs close to the Sydney CBD south of the Parramatta River. This is why the Sydney Harbour crossings should be free, because there is no feasible alternative route.
However, it has been shown that a boycott of the CCT and LCT does work and people power can send these toll roads broke, to the point where with luck, they will be eventually have to be resumed by the government and turned into freeways.
But you have to do your part to achieve this. It is not hard and it just requires conscious effort, especially with the assistance of a GPS receiver to make it easy. Tell your friends to boycott toll roads where possible and eventually motorists may get these roads back in the way that they should have been in the first place - as freeways.