In defence of truck over potholes

I was gutted to see a tweet over the holiday period from then-Transport Minister Michael Wood attempting to blame trucks for the increasing number of potholes.

In the tweet, the minister blamed the 2010 policy change under the previous National government allowing 50MAX trucks (up to 53 tonnes).

Since the tweet, I have spent considerable time defending the industry and correcting a blatantly inaccurate statement. The minister should have known better.

Peer-reviewed studies referenced on Waka Kotahi’s website confirm that 50MAX trucks have no more impact on pavement than a standard truck due to their additional axle configuration. Bigger trucks also mean fewer trips, resulting in fewer carbon emissions and trucks on the road.

The minister’s tweet was designed purely to create a soundbite and rile up a certain section of Labour’s support base, which is much less interested in facts than virtue-signalling. It was a lazy, cheap attack on an industry that, through extremely hard toil, kept the country’s supermarket shelves stocked through the most difficult days of the pandemic and continues to work hard to keep the economy moving.

New Zealanders have grown tired of this government continuously blaming others, including previous governments, road users and the weather. Transport is not the only portfolio where this happens, and I sincerely hope that the new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and his rejigged cabinet can move on from it and start talking about how they will address the myriad problems concerning New Zealanders.

As road users, we just want the government to get on with improving maintenance across the network and building new roads where required.

The long wait for roadside drug testing is over

From 11 March, the police will implement new powers allowing them to conduct saliva-based roadside drug tests and help improve safety for professional truck drivers.

Transporting New Zealand and the road transport industry has advocated for roadside drug testing for a long time, and although the relevant legislation passed last year, it is exciting to know that implementation is about to begin.

While not quite as fast as a roadside alcohol test, saliva-based drug testing only takes a few minutes to achieve a result and can detect the most common drugs, including cannabis, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, ecstasy and cocaine.

A driver who fails two consecutive saliva tests can expect an infringement penalty, including demerit points, a fine and a temporary prohibition from driving. If they dispute the results and opt for a blood test and fail that, then criminal charges could be laid, depending on the level and number of drugs detected and their combination with alcohol.

None of this can come a moment too soon. Around 100 people a year are killed on our roads by a driver found to have a level of drugs in their system.

For truck drivers who work on our roads for thousands of hours per year, any measures that can make other drivers safer must be welcomed, and the government should be congratulated for seeing this through and passing the legislation with the overwhelming support of Parliament (only the Greens and Te Pati Maori opposed it). We look forward to its effective implementation.

Government right to reinstate RUC discount

Transporting New Zealand welcomes the government’s decision to extend the Transport Support Package, including the reinstatement of the 36% RUC discount. While this is good news for trucking companies, it is likely to be even better news for families who have avoided the further inflationary impact of increased transport costs.

Despite extending the Transport Support Package until 30 June, Transporting New Zealand is continuing its call for the government to retain the package until inflation falls below 6%. Even once we reach that point, we believe the discount should be reduced slowly to avoid shocks.

In such a competitive industry with margins so tight and other input costs already impacting the bottom line, transport operators couldn’t be expected to soak up the extra RUC costs. We released figures earlier in the year that showed a 45-plus-tonne truck and trailer travelling 100,000km per year would have paid an additional $21,000 due to the removal of the discount.

With 93% of all freight being transported by trucks, and transport costs making up more than 12% of grocery prices alone, the government’s decision provides considerable price relief for road transport operators and New Zealand families.