RUC increase unacceptable, says NRC

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 5, 2020

The government‘s 5.3% increase in road user charges from 1 July is a kick in the guts to the trucking industry that kept the country moving during lockdown and must be cancelled, said the National Road Carriers Association.

“It is unacceptable,” said National Road Carriers association (NRC) CEO David Aitken. “Throughout the lockdown the road freight industry kept the country moving delivering essential supplies including medicine and food.”

Aitken said transport operators were seriously aggrieved by the planned RUC increase. “There is a lot of unrest on social media among the road freight community and it is our responsibility to make sure the government hears the industry‘s concerns.

“Transport runs on low margins at the best of times and most of those operating during lockdown ran at zero or negative margins, due to limited goods and volumes that could be moved. The industry also put its own health and safety on the line to deliver these goods. Transport operators worked through all pandemic alert levels, often at a cost to them, their families and their companies.”

He said RUC increases will affect the transport sector, with some companies not expected to survive, and consumers will pay more for goods and services, as some costs will have to be passed on. 

Aitken added that the road transport industry was very disappointed by a perceived lack of recognition of the role it played during the Covid-19 lockdown. “During the whole lockdown, as far as I‘m aware, the government made no real acknowledgement of the industry‘s efforts.

“Instead of recognition of the industry‘s efforts, this government wants to punish it when freight companies are struggling by increasing the RUC to pay for rail, cycleways and public transport – which are not capable of delivering essential supplies to stores.” 

Aitken said the road transport industry had witnessed the government ‘rewarding‘ many other sectors such as arts and music, racing, and tourism with big payouts. “This is fine, but we see an essential service such as road transport instead being punished for its efforts. If it weren‘t for road freight, none of these other sectors would be possible, particularly racing and tourism.”

He said transport sees itself as an easy target for governments to pass taxes onto (like the RUC) and for customers to pass costs onto, or refuse to acknowledge the true cost of delivering. He said the industry is seen as a cash cow and it has had enough. 

He said the industry was willing to continue paying RUC as it is now, but this needs to go into the currently badly maintained roading networks and build new infrastructure that allows the efficient flow of freight. “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how essential road freight is, as did the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.”

Aitken said Road Transport Forum CEO Nick Leggett has pointed out that the National Land Transport Fund was below budget, roading repairs have not kept pace with the growth of revenue generated from heavy vehicles, and an economic downturn will affect load sizes rather than distance travelled.

In March, the RTF lobbied the government to cancel the planned RUC increase due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic and the downturn most transport operators will experience due to this.