BRASÍLIA – The government of President Jair Bolsonaro has endorsed federal highway concessionaires to plead with the National Land Transport Agency (ANTT) to rebalance their contracts due to the new coronavirus pandemic and the consequent readjustment in toll fees.

The concessionaires did not immediately apply for readjustment, because they are waiting for other measures from the government to help them face the reduction in traffic on the roads.

According Brazilian Association of Highway Concessionaires (ABCR), The movement in the country’s roads granted to the sector fell in April and May 44%. This resulted in a drop in 30%.

To repair these losses, the Attorney General’s Office (AGU) issued, on April 13, an opinion that recognizes that the concessionaires are having a loss not foreseen in the contract in the pandemic.

The concessionaires’ argument, accepted by the government, is that responsibility for falling traffic on the roads rests with the State, insofar as social isolation was imposed by governors and mayors.

Since the beginning of this week, truckers ‘and hauliers’ associations have prepared a reaction to the AGU’s opinion, Focusing on the ministries of Infrastructure and Economy, by saying even “betrayed” by the government. Category representatives do not question the rebalancing of the contracts themselves but they claim that the government could not have given scope for this to happen through tariff adjustments.

Tariff readjustment

THE National Association of Cargo Transport Users (ANUT) estimates that in order to rebalance contracts, companies must increase toll fees in 30%. “We have companies that are in extreme difficulty even to pay their employees’ salaries. That is why the government cannot increase the spending of companies with the payment of more expensive tariffs. That we do not accept”, says the president Luiz Baldez.

“We are living in a very complicated situation. The truck driver is out of freight. That is why we are fighting to have a reduction, not an increase in the toll amount”, says the president of Brazilian Association of Vehicle Drivers Motor (Abrava), Wallace Landim, known as Chorão. The organization represents more than 2 million of autonomous truck drivers from 26 states and the Federal District.

The Ministry of Infrastructure evaluates, however, that it is not able to promote a generalized tariff readjustment, despite pressure from the concessionaires. Through a note, the folder says that the legal competence to promote contractual reviews, including the verification of the effects of the pandemic on road concession contracts, belongs to ANTT. The ministry justifies that, as a formulator of public policy, it consulted the AGU “in order to guarantee transparency and legal certainty through an opinion indicating whether the effects of the covid-19 pandemic can be interpreted as fortuitous cases provided for in contracts “.

Also according to the advisory of the portfolio, there is no definition on the method to be used for possible rebalances and each case will be analyzed in a unique way. “There is, therefore, all signs indicate tariff increases as a tool for possible rebalancing. “

Drop in collections

According to the association of concessionaires, since April, the sector has stopped collecting R $ 500 million per month due to the drop in traffic on the highways. “We don’t believe in a quick recovery,” said the president of the Abear, César Borges. “The AGU’s opinion was an advance, it is better to have the opinion than not to have it. It is necessary, but it is not enough. The government itself signals that it will take action, but does not say how or when. It remains too much in the speech , in good intention. but nothing concrete “.

Borges says that the increase in toll fees “does not have to be abrupt, it can be tariff steps“.” For long contracts, it rebalances by increasing the term of the contracts. This is a calculation to be done, giving more time to flow. “

To avoid increases in fares, he said, the government can release companies from complying with planned investments. “But, as we are in need of investments, and we argue that companies should be a vector for resuming investment and employment, we do not consider it a good option”.

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