Given its indispensable role keeping the New Zealand economy moving, and the huge freight task it carries out, the commercial road freight fleet is a small proportion, less than four percent, of the total number of vehicles on the road.
According to the Te Manatū Waka - Ministry of Transport there are about 4.4 million licenced vehicles in New Zealand. Of these, about 150,000 are heavy vehicles, but that includes buses and motor homes. About 30,000 trucks are used for commercial freight, and almost all of those involved in long distance trips will also tow heavy trailers.
Many of the heavier trucks are owned and operated by individuals and organisations not primarily involved in road freight, for example, tradespeople, developers and contractors, local councils, manufacturers, utilities (eg. power and gas companies), and other businesses.
Heavy trucks travel about three billion kilometres per year with heavy trailers completing about 1.4 billion kilometres in the same period, with one-third of the kilometres generated through freight and customer deliveries taking place in the urban environment and the balance servicing the wider inter-regional and hinterland economy. Some two-thirds of the truck fleet, predominantly 2-axle trucks, are involved with servicing the wider urban customers on a regular basis.
Heavy vehicle pays a hypothecated road tax (road user charges, or RUC) based on the truck weight and the distance travelled, with that revenue being dedicated to the Government’s National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) for allocation by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to maintain the roads. In 2021 the Government decided funds from the NLTF would also subsidise rail. The RUC revenue collected from heavy vehicles for 2021 is expected to be more than $1.7 billion.