CommentHeavy Haulage

A new broom sweeping through transport


The Transport Minister, Simeon Brown is rapidly sweeping away many of the cobwebs from the previous Government, and our association certainly welcomes the direction where much of this new policy and legislation is heading. Jonathan Bhana-Thomson, CEO, Heavy Haulage Association.

For some years, our Association has been working with the NZTA under the administration of the previous GPS, directed by the previous Labour Government.

This has resulted in engagement with the Transport Agency on road safety projects and speed consultations that led to more restrictions on transporting oversized loads. We are all for safety, but the key for our sector is ensuring that the efficiency of moving large indivisible freight objects for our clients is not compromised to the point of incurring more costs than can be justified.

The draft Position Statement on Transport by the Government was consulted on earlier this year, and set the construction of 15 Roads of National Significance as one of its headlines, which will be based on a four-lane design. Over the past decade, we have seen the significant benefit of the opening of a number of these projects – be they the Kapiti Expressway, the Waikato Expressway, or the Puhoi to Warkworth Motorway – that are much safer and more efficient for the transport of oversize loads.

Frankly, these are the roads that large, oversized freight should be transported on, and we are pleased to see many new ones planned for various locations around the country. The challenge is that if these are built as Toll Roads – that oversize loads are not permitted to travel on these roads without specific exemption. This is something that we have been advocating to have changed, and we will continue to seek this.

The dedication to having roads maintained to a higher standard is also provided in the GPS, and we welcome the promised quicker fixes to the degradation of our roads. This will come with its challenges for the oversize sector, as more maintenance always means more disruption to the heavy transport sector.

However, with good planning, analysis and communication, these works can be undertaken with less disruption to our sector – with better-maintained roads.

Under National, we have also seen the rapid demise of Let’s Get Wellington Moving, the Auckland Light Rail Project, Auckland Fuel Tax, and the ‘Ute Tax’. As long as the focus of transport authorities now moves to ensure that the transport system is fit for purpose, and urgently needed fixes are made to the Wellington roading network, for example, then these are welcome steps.

With the new Land Transport Rule for setting speed limits around the country, the Government has said that it will need to take into account the economic impacts of travel times, alongside safety.  Previously, we have seen that the focus has been solely on safety and reducing speed rather than balancing this against the economic impacts of freight having to travel more slowly.

We also welcome the more targeted approach to ‘black spot’ areas. The Minister has said that the ‘Rule’ will be consulted on and signed this year.

However, the Government will need to face other challenges outside of the many issues it has taken action on so far. This includes ensuring the roading network on the East Coast of the North Island, which was so badly hit by past weather events, gets sufficient funding to make smart investments in long-term solutions. The 2024 Budget has provided around $940million in funding over 2-3 years to recover both state highway and local roads to their previous condition. The challenge is that in some cases it will build back the routes better than they were previously, but these will require large amounts of money to ensure that no compromise to these solutions will haunt us in the future.

We also want to see a more efficient transport system for administration. Specifically, in our sector, upgrading the permitting system to allow for a good user interface for obtaining, saving, recalling, and reissuing permits is necessary for the oversize sector.

The NZTA needs good funding to implement this and work with road users to ensure that it is fit for purpose and addresses the current wider notification issues.

Further, the Minister needs to lead a review of various aspects of the VDAM Rule to ensure that it (alongside other Land Transport Rules) is current and fit for purpose. Rules reviews are often long and painful and don’t always result in good outcomes for the industry. We (alongside other transport industry groups) need the Minister to progress a range of rule changes.

So, while it is great to see progress, to date, this has only been repealing and changing what was already in place. We will engage with the various authorities to ensure that when the rubber hits the road in the near future, it is to address broader issues that will make a difference for the oversized transport sector.

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