Left on the roadside

The number of vehicles abandoned in Queensland is on the rise.

Abandoned vehicles are a costly problem for local authorities. According to a recent report in the Townsville Bulletin, the Townsville City Council removes an abandoned car from it streets every two days, costing ratepayers around $10,000 annually.

But that’s insignificant in comparison to Brisbane and the Gold Coast, which respectively had to deal with around 2400 and 5500 unwanted vehicles in 2017. Even Brisbane airport isn’t immune with more than 30 vehicles being abandoned in its car park in the first three months of this year.  Then there’s the unknown number of vehicles that are illegally dumped in waterways and bushland throughout the state. 

In Australia, even though it’s illegal to leave an unregistered vehicle parked on the road, current legislative arrangements don’t keep track of vehicles that are no longer registered, so there’s simply no way to hold individuals responsible for them*.  

Remove a vehicle’s registration plates and deface its identification number and there’s no way to even determine its identity, let alone know who owns it.

Countries such as the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have dealt with the issue by introducing what could be called “cradle to grave” management of vehicles.  It’s a type of perpetual registration that means owners keep paying the registration fee until the vehicle has been certified as destroyed or that it met some other defined end.  Such schemes very effectively remove any incentive to inappropriately dispose of vehicles.

Most also incorporate provision to suspend registration. One example is the UKs Statutory Off Road Notification or SORN, which allows owners to avoid ongoing registration costs while ensuring they remain responsible for the vehicle. Hefty fines apply to breaches of the arrangement.

Last year Austroads, the peak organisation of Australasian road transport and traffic agencies, commissioned a discussion paper, Better Management of End-of-Life Vehicles, to explore methods of reducing environmental damage and the impacts of vehicle crime involving End of Life Vehicles.  

With an estimated 500,000** Australian vehicles reaching the end of their lives each year, the benefits, including reducing the hit on our council rates, could be significant.
 
*Austroads Project RS1854 Better Management of End-of-Life Vehicles discussion paper. 
**Environment Australia Environmental impact of End of Life vehicles.