Easing of Heavy Truck Rules Prompts Safety Concerns

Media Release From the Campaign for Better Transport

Government moves to relax rules for heavy trucks have prompted road safety concerns from The Campaign for Better Transport.

The Ministry of Transport is proposing to allow standard truck maximum weights to increase from 44 tonnes to 45 tonnes, remove the need for permits for maximum load trucks, and allow wider and taller trucks on New Zealand roads, as part of its review of the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass (VDAM) Rule.

Changes to the VDAM Rule were made in 2010 to allow the maximum weight of trucks to increase from 44 tonnes to 53 tonnes on selected roads.

Cameron Pitches, spokesperson for the Campaign for Better Transport, says further relaxing of the rules around maximum weights will put other road users at risk.

According to Ministry of Transport figures, in 2010 trucks were involved in 15% of all fatal accidents. In 2014, trucks were involved in 23% of all fatal accidents, accounting for 67 deaths and 772 injuries.

“The Government expectation that safety would improve by introducing heavy trucks to our roads is clearly wrong. The trend is worrying and more work needs to be done before we relax the rules further,” said Mr Pitches.

“This proposal is specifically designed to increase the trucking industry’s market share of heavy freight, but the public generally want more heavy freight on rail and off the roads.”

In recent years the Government has spent tens of millions of dollars strengthening bridges and roads to support heavy trucks.

The proposal estimates economic benefits to be $634m over 30 years in present value terms, largely resulting from a theoretical reduction in the number of trucks for the same freight task, but Mr Pitches is skeptical.

“Most of the potential benefits seem to be for truck operators themselves, but for the wider community this could easily be offset by the increasing number of accidents involving trucks.”

“Similarly, claims of positive environmental benefits aren’t substantiated if freight is moved from trains,” said Mr Pitches.

In allowing wider trucks and buses on the road, the proposal will also place pressure on New Zealand’s bus and coach manufacturers, as larger buses could be imported directly from the USA and Australia. New Zealand’s manufacturers employ over 250 skilled staff and over 500 specialist subcontractors and suppliers with an estimated turnover of over $50 million this year alone.

Public submissions on the proposed changes close on Wednesday 17th February.  A pro-forma submission is available here.


Truck accident statistics:

From their latest newsletter “Express”,  Kiwirail forecast during the first half of 2016 they will operate 36,711 rail services which is equivalent to reducing 545,311 truck trips, saving 39.4 million litres of fuel and 106,011 tons of CO2 emissions if the same freight task had of been moved by road.