Freight sector cut out of speed-setting process

In Road Transport Forum, August 20213 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 25, 2021

The Road Transport Forum (RTF) strongly opposes a rule change announced by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency that removes its duty to consult the freight sector when setting road speed limits.

With 93% of freight in New Zealand moved by trucks, and considering the significant contribution that makes to the economy, we must have a say on what happens on the roads, which are the workplace for those we represent. We can’t be locked out of that because the government doesn’t like what we say.

We made submissions on this rule change, which suggests an independent speed management committee take on responsibility for speed setting, with no opportunity for direct submissions, or specific freight-industry consultation. We think that is inadequate and that the current consultation process should remain.

The RTF has been a vocal critic of the government’s speed- setting agenda, which has been wrapped up in road safety and decarbonisation claims, and we view speed setting as a low-cost option when measured against network improvements or safety improvement investments.

The RTF recognises the objectives of having a formal speed-setting policy framework. But a worrying trend, which appears to be gathering momentum, is the need to reduce speeds rather than carry out network and route upgrades, especially when so many New Zealand roads have safety design deficits and functionality challenges.

The current lack of investment in roads for vehicles and the subsequent lowering of speed limits to make roads ‘safe’, is a policy of death by a thousand cuts. It will result in higher costs due to increased trip times, which will eventually impact all consumer goods.

The reality is that the roading network has not been maintained to the standard New Zealanders deserve. Instead of investing money in bringing our roads up to scratch, the government prefers to throw it at vanity projects, such as the Auckland Harbour cycle bridge, and slap speed limits on roads that are only dangerous because of their condition.

We believe our industry has the expertise and could make a valuable input to discussions about roads in New Zealand, and we do not want to be removed from those discussions. That doesn’t feel very democratic and is certainly not a robust process.

In our formal submission on the rule change, we acknowledge several changes that are positive and create an expectation of a more balanced speed-setting outcome. But the consultation framework with the industry and road users on proposed new speed limits is inadequate when compared with the 2017 process.

We will continue to seek RTF involvement in the consultation process codified in some way to provide confidence that road-user views are fairly represented. The wider freight industry is a significant contributor to the National Land Transport Fund. As we would expect with other vehicle related road-user groups, its views should be considered accordingly.