Labour released a small part of their transport policy yesterday and frankly it’s absolute rubbish with it seemingly designed just to target a handful of complainers. You can get a good feel for what they’re aiming at when the policy is called Easier Driving and with the slogan accompanying the policies is

Labour will make it easier to get a family holiday on the roada

The three things this release says they will do are:

The issue

Trailers and caravans
Currently, owners of light trailers and caravans must pay an annual licensing fee (usually referred to as ‘registration’) of $28, plus a $7 administration fee.

It is a tax that generates a huge amount of hassle for the 600,000 light trailer and caravan owners in New Zealand while bringing in little revenue for the government. With 20% of the cost to owners going on administration, it is also highly inefficient. No policy justification exists for charging a registration fee for light trailers and caravans; it’s just a money grab.

Heavy trucks have a speed limit of 90km/h. If they drive in the fast lane on multi-lane roads, they either slow down light vehicle traffic or, frequently, exceed their speed limit. This is both inconvenient for other road users and dangerous.

Motorhomes and campervans
The current government unfairly increased Road User Charges for owners of motorhomes and campervans when it changed from assessing RUC based on actual gross weight to using maximum allowable weight, instead.

Many campervans and motorhomes are built on heavy chassis or converted from buses but never carry anywhere near their maximum allowable weight. This means they have far less impact on the roads than a fully-laden commercial truck with the same maximum allowable weight. Charging them the same RUC as a much heavier vehicle goes against the principles of the RUC Act. This change has seen RUC costs unfairly double for some motorhome and campervan owners.

The detail

Labour is committed to getting rid of unnecessary costs and rules that put a burden on Kiwis. As an example of this approach, we have identified several current rules and requirements that make using the roads a hassle. Changing them will lower costs and make life easier for Kiwis, and give a boost to domestic tourism.

Labour will remove the annual licencing fee for light trailers and caravans. This will reduce revenue into the National Land Transport Fund by $17 million a year (less than 1% of the NTLF, which can be met by reprioritisation), but save owners of trailers and caravans $21 million a year, as well as countless hours and hassle.

In other jurisdictions including the UK, South Australia, Victoria and many US states, heavy trucks are required to not use the fast lane on multi-lane roads. Labour will adopt this rule for three and four lane highways. Heavy trucks can still travel at their 90km/h speed limit in the other lanes, but it keeps the fast lane clear for faster light vehicle traffic.

Labour will create a special RUC class for motorhomes and campervans that reflects their actual impact on the roads, as suggested by the AA. This will reduce revenue into the National Land Transport Fund by $2-5 million a year (to be funded out of reprioritisation within the NLTF).

That there are so many other transport issues that will need to be addressed and they decide to waste time on this stuff doesn’t bode well for their overall transport policy. The trailer and caravan changes seem like tinkering around the edges and if Labour were serious they would get cracking on changing the entire licencing system.

As for the trucks on motorways, as far as I’m aware there is technically no such thing as a fast lane so it will be a bit hard for them to stay out of it. Even if this was implemented as it sounds it doesn’t mean there is that many places it would actually have any affect. The only three lane state highways are in Auckland and Wellington and on those most trucks do tend to stay to the left. I can’t remember the last time I saw a truck creating a hold up in free flow motorway traffic. Certainly they can be an issue outside of Auckland but then this policy wouldn’t be relevant anyway due to the lace of qualifying roads (and that doesn’t mean we need to go and build more).  This map shows the extent of motorways in Auckland that have over three lanes. Obviously there are some big upgrades going on that will increase this in coming years.

black = 3 lanes, red = four lanes and green = 5 lanes

Motorways with more than 3 lanes

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  1. Certainly seems like a minor policy that doesn’t deserve any fanfare, that said in Germany trucks must stay to the right and cannot travel on motorways on Sundays. It certainly makes driving more comfortable when you don’t have trucks overtaking one another like frequently occurs in NZ.

  2. Who would I vote for if the only thing I cared about was getting a norwestern busway and a high-frequency, express bus service all the way from Waimauku/ Kumeu/ Huapai to the city?

      1. And not national…maybe I have a chance of getting it into the internet party’s policies, since they are planning to crowdsource ‘n all.

  3. With the exception of the southern Green bit, I think all of those would require trucks to NOT be in the two ‘slow lanes’ to ensure they stay on the correct motorway. I dont see this as an issue for the city motorways as it is not generally an issue. On the occasions when traffic is gonig faster than 90km, they are normally in the left lanes anyway.

    Now if they agreed to building some RoNS that were 3+ lanes wide, then they may have a point as driving intercity on motorways (like on the German Autobahns or UK motorways), such a rule would work.

  4. You maybe right about the oppositions tinkering ideas but so much of Auckland’s entire transport system needs so much tinkering. Forgetting the grand schemes and visions for the moment, there are so many minor details that need attention but just get ignored and it is time for Auckland Transport to bite the bullet. Re-timing a set of traffic lights or adjusting a bus timetable doesn’t win votes I suppose.

    1. Don’t disagree, but people don’t elect politicians on promises of thinkering with the small changes. And heck, even THAT promise can be sold better – tie in these smaller changes with a larger vision. This list sounds exactly like what it is. A small list, no vision.

  5. “Labour will make it easier to get a family holiday on the road”

    Well that completely undermines their dismissal of PuFord as nothing but a “holiday highway”. It turns out that holidays ARE important. Regardless of the merits of either policy, how could they not notice that they were releasing contradictory messages?

    1. Nothing contradictory about them, obi. You can want people to be get out on the roads for holidays with minimal stress without also building roads that cater solely to those holidays; the Steven Joyce Memorial Holiday Highway being a spectacular example of a high-volume road being developed entirely to address problems caused by holiday traffic volumes. That corridor is fine pretty much all the rest of the time, except when there are serious or fatal collisions, of which there are several each year, courtesy of the road’s shitty design/construction at present. The SJMHH will do nothing to fix that, and NZTA’s modelling shows that the existing road will continue to carry about as many vehicles per day as it does currently; presumably killing or maiming about as many people also.

      Labour’s stated policy is to scrap the SJMHH, do Project Lifesaver and the Warkworth bypass, and thus get all the major benefits (except a memorial to Steven Joyce) without the major cost.

      1. According to the Herald: “Labour leader David Cunliffe said “Kiwis are sweating the small stuff too much” and Labour’s changes would reduce frustrations during public holiday periods.” Next time a motorist (and voter) is stuck in a three hour queue going to the beach on a public holiday, they’re not going to thank Cunliffe for saving them the bother of registering their caravan. Also, every motorist stuck behind a caravan is going to be doubly frustrated.

        Just raising holidays as part of the announcement was a communications failure. Trucks and trailers are part of every day life and have no connection to holidays. Caravans do, but a $35 saving for caravan owners isn’t going to win any support. Who advised Cunliffe this was a good idea?

    2. The problem with Family Holidays is bigger than roads. It costs almost double or more to book a bach or fly anywhere or book a holiday for Families constrained to the holidays. And the schools are complaining about kids skipping class. And employers are hit all at once with parents wanting leave. If labour want to address families and holidays and transport they should have been more visionary, we need to introduce a couple of flexi-weeks. Now that parents get 4 weeks off, kids and schools need more flexibility. Take two weeks off the mandatory holidays and give two weeks flexi time for kids to take during school time – obviously how much flexibility would depend on what age you are and exams required. But set a range when it’s ok to take your flexi holiday. Some mandatory shut down and some flexi holidays would lighten the load on a whole lot of resources .

        1. Because we are all wage slaves chained to the 40-hour week, 48 week capitalist system. Lets all quit work and life can be one big holiday. YAY!

  6. “That there are so many other transport issues that will need to be addressed and they decide to waste time on this stuff doesn’t bode well for their overall transport policy. ”

    Couldn’t agree more. Labour was booted out of power for perceived petty nanny state meddling, this is on par. They need firm well reasoned policy, especially in election year.

  7. Truck-trailer rigs are limited to 90km/hr. When truck drivers think they can keep at 100km/hr they can be very hard to overtake on a two-lane road. The Labour proposals will not deal with this issue.

    Trucks driving on lane three on the southern motorway can be a minor irritant to motorists climbing to the Bombay interchange going south and to motorists heading north of Takanini.

    A better move would be for Labour to pay for several “Keep Left” signs along the motorway. Would be a political and a safety message.

  8. Labour: boldly dealing with the transport issues that keep you awake at night. Or not.
    There’s no point in even discussing whether the truck thing has any merit – the point is that the so-called Opposition has sidestepped any discussion of the merits or otherwise of the RoNS, public-private partnerships, and more sustainable transport choices in urban areas (the bits of the country where most of us live).
    Must. Do. Better.

    1. They’re certainly not going to be chucking Smiley John out of a job come election time if this is their best effort at hard policy, are they?

  9. European motorways generally have a motorcar speed limit of 130km/hr. Trucks are very thoroughly restricted in Europe to 100km/hr by a logging device. Truck drivers in Europe very seldom exceed the 100km/hr limit as they can be caught hours later when checked by a roadside check of the log. This type of enforcement is widespread and rigorously imposed. Cars are therefore passing trucks on European roads with a relative difference of 30km/hr. (German drivers observe the speed limit).

    The need to restrict trucks to the slow lane is therefore much greater on European roads than in New Zealand, where the difference in speed between trucks and cars should be no more than 10km/hr, (although the steepness of some of our roads will increase this speed difference)

    Conversely the need for trucks to overtake on the better regulated roads of Europe is much less than on the anarchistic roads of New Zealand as all the trucks on European motorways are inevitably travelling at exactly 100km/hr, making truck convoys on the slow lane much more stable. Generally European truck drivers only overtake when they get bored with watching the truck ahead.

    Maybe Labour could get our speed enforcement of trucks up to European standards. This might have more impact on road safety than the recent proposals.

        1. Quite sure trucks over 9 tonnes are electronically limited to 80km/h in all of eec and can’t overtake unless there are 3 lanes or more and if it is explicitly allowed. Also they can’t travel from Saturday night to Sunday night unless they have a permit for stuff like food, alive stuff and pharmaceuticals. I used to plan truck loads for flowers and stuff all over Europe and I never found a driver complaining about it. You just do it because it is safe.

          1. “You just do it because it is safe.” – Unfortunately safety and human lives comes a very distant second to the fast as possible movement of metal boxes in NZ.

        2. It really concern me that truckies in nz complain about people braking in front of them “because it takes me 200m to stop this rig”. If you can’t stop safely go slow!

  10. Transport has never been an election winner. Lets hope they have a few ideas about some of the more important issues.

    1. Transport has been a major election topic in many countries. And it would be so easy to make the RONS isssue for example into a referendum on economic performance “National is wasting your taxes on billion dollar scams – while polluting your suburb in the deal. Do you to trust these folks with your money?”

      Instead, they are trying to small-scale tiptoe their way around some issues most people don’t care about. Hopeless.

      1. I see it as smart politics. They can’t get elected by saying “We are not going to spend any more money on roads” because the people who want that policy already support Labour or the Greens. It will never win them the votes they need off National. National could respond with “Labour will make you ride on a bus to get anywhere” hardly a vote winner! Labour could have gone for the high ground of “We will fund all transport projects that meet rigorous economic assessment targets” but spending our money wisely never seems to rate.

        1. That’s not smart politics at all. At the moment no-one knows what Labour stands for and no really big policies, other than the electricity thing, have been suggested as yet. That they’re bothering with this at all is plain stupid – people see it as the irrelevant tinkering that it is.

          If Labour strongly came out against the RoNS and constantly repeated “National are wasting taxpayer money on infrastructure that is not needed, and will only make things worse due to induced demand.” in the media they might start to get some real traction.

  11. Perhaps DC would like to mandate the 4 km/h tolerance on a full time basis, but then that would annoy the people who contribute to some 700K + speeding infringements every year.

    1. The only reason we have so many speeding infringements is because the Police pick the low-hanging fruit and refuse to forcibly enforce give way rules, indicating rules, and keeping left rules.

      Speed causes fewer than 20% of all injury crashes yet is 60+% of all infringements. WOFs and similar make up another huge chunk despite car/mechanical failures contributing to very few accidents.

      Also, if every 1kmh slower means 4% fewer accidents, why is our speed limit 100? Why not 75? Why not 50? You have to balance safety and speed. The Police don’t do this. If the Police balanced safety and speed, they might actually ticket people who block Hobson Street (right.behind.their.Headquarters), or people who fail to indicate when merging onto motorways, or who fail to keep left on multi-lane roads (read the road code – if you aren’t overtaking, you should not be in the RHL).

      This new policy is good but doesn’t go far enough. Trucks above X tonnes should be banned from our roads between 6am and 9am and then between 4pm and 7pm.

      1. “Speed causes fewer than 20% of all injury crashes” – Do you have a source for that?

        I think it is actually more accurate to say that speed is a factor in 100% of crashes. That’s to say if at least one person was going slower (even if not the person at fault) it is much more likely that the crash could have been avoided.

        It is certainly a major factor in fatal crashes. There are very few fatal crashes at 30km/h and the vast majority would involve a pedestrian, not two cars.

      2. Voluntary tax. I’ll say it again. It’s clearly signed (despite detractors harping on about the 0.3% of cases where it isn’t).

        YOU choose to speed, YOU choose risk it (and our lives) – so YOU better be made to pay! I’ll laugh at your “revenue gathering” comments all the way to my reduced road tax bill, thanks to people like you. And maybe you’ll even learn, after being stung a few times.

    1. But in Switzerland they don’t suddenly withdraw half their locos because of an asbestos scare. For both Kiwirail and AT running trains seems to be “optional” rather than “essential”.

  12. There will also need to be a considerable overhaul of the economic model in NZ if they want these policies to fly! Currently based, very simply put, on commuters value of time and crashes! Not on off peak holiday traffic!

  13. We need to get with the UK and Australia, and ban passing on the left on motorways and signposted expressways. That will hopefully force people to keep left.

  14. Great to see NZ First ripping into Gerry Brownlee over Gisborne to Napier line and the CRL in Parliament last week. Seems to have been missed by everyone on transportblog!!! Gerry was being the usual swine.

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