Three years ago, leading into the 2008 election campaign, truckies staged a national strike, blocking the roads in protest at the then Minister of Transport’s announcement of an increase in road user charges.
It was Road Transport Forum (RTF) driven and many trucking operators put their employee drivers on the road that day to boost the numbers, which is a bit like a union paying union members to strike. It was timed well, and had an effect. Transport Minister Annette King set up a road user charges review group which reported back in 2009.
Now parliament is considering a Road User Charges Bill that has got the truckies up in arms again because it proposes to change the definition of licence weight from nominated gross weight to a definition based on the maximum permissible on-road weight.
The truckies are saying that this could mean increases in RUC charges for around 70% of the industry, forcing unproductive changes that could have impacts on safety, on damage to our roads, and financial consequences for SMEs. Basically, the big trucks will get off lightly, while the smaller trucks will pay more.
In a fascinating turn of events, truckies have told the government that they are organising to protest again and this time around they will be better organised than in 2008. One operator has set up a website which is worth a look.
There’s a split in the industry. Many are supportive of the New Zealand’s unique road user charging system, which is now attracting international interest as virtually every modern economy develops and trials technology to implement similar direct charging for heavy vehicles.
There’s some really smart modern operators in New Zealand now taking up the opportunity new technology offers to buy road user charges on-line and maximise efficiency.
Then you have the RTF, who continue to insist that road user charges should be paid through fuel excise and who appear to treat modern technology with suspicion.
Never thought I would be so interested in trucks.