Transporting New Zealand’s work this past week has focused on the Government giving itself emergency powers until just before the 2023 election, ACC fees appearing to not back the Government’s Road to Zero road safety strategy, and minor tinkering with the driver licensing system that instead, needs a proper overhaul.

We made three submissions to the government on behalf of the road freight transport industry, and regarding the extension of emergency Covid-19 powers, I appeared before the Health Select Committee (pictured above, presenting via Zoom) to give our views on the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2). The other submissions were on ACC levy rate proposals and the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Rule.

It is important that our industry is heard by Government and that is part of what Transporting New Zealand does.

I said last week I thought we were on a rudderless ship in New Zealand, but now the pace of the Covid-19 outbreak has picked up, it feels like a runaway bus. This is one of the reasons we oppose the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2) extending the Government’s emergency powers until May 2023 – a couple of months before we can expect the next general election, if it goes ahead (emergency powers make anything possible).

We have expressed our concern that the lack of transparency and accountability the Government is operating under as it responds to Covid-19 cannot continue, and extending their emergency powers until May 2023 shows a lack of ambition and commitment to New Zealand’s recovery from the pandemic.

Under emergency powers, rule is by a select few with little scrutiny. We have seen little consultation by Government with the business people impacted by their daily lurch to a new measure without any clear plan or end goal. We cannot have rule from the 1pm press conference until May 2023. The rest of the world is getting on with it using vaccination, rapid testing and face masks, and we need to join them.

While the New Zealand Government was very late to the vaccination roll out, there has been rapid uptake and after this weekend’s big push, we can safely say people have had the chance to get vaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated cannot be held back indefinitely by those who choose not to, or we will never get anywhere.

While it is great to see the Government finally see the value of rapid antigen testing and pull out all stops to get that testing available for a chosen few big companies, they need to get on and make this testing available to all. It’s not like they haven’t had time to plan for the arrival of Delta as they watched it travel all around the world.

Interestingly, on the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) 2021 Levy Consultation ACC levy rate proposals, our submission pointed out that in predicting an increasing trend of injuries and costs from road crashes for the years 2019 to 2026, ACC is at odds with its own master’s Road to Zero safety strategy.

The Government’s Road to Zero aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries by 40 percent by 2030.  

ACC proposes incrementally increasing the levy for Class 9H (non-petrol-driven goods vehicles over 3500 kg) from $275.41 in 2022-2023 to $316.21 in 2024-2025.

Our concern is that while we acknowledge that in absolute terms the cost increases, circa $20 per year per vehicle, are not a great amount, we are concerned that the percentage changes faced by truck business operators are disproportionally high when compared with the forecast injury costs. We have asked ACC to justify why trucks appear to be paying a higher share of the predicted increasing injury costs.

We do not believe the Government is doing enough proactive work to reduce motor vehicle injury costs and we recommend a thorough investigation of the Motor Vehicle Account funding be carried out to enable associated costs to be more closely allocated to claimants, based on risk, not vehicle type, or transport mode.

Transporting New Zealand has for some time been saying we believe the graduated driver licensing system (GDLS) needs a fundamental rethink, particularly as it applies to Class 2 to 5 licences. We don’t believe a bit of tinkering around time limits to be sufficient, as per the latest Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Rule.

The multiple levels of licence category have only served to load trainees with significant costs and delays in employment and in part, contributed to the present heavy vehicle driver shortage in New Zealand. It has delivered marginal safety benefits.

This week, we continued our push with government officials for a broader discussion on licensing as we face a driver shortage and limited human resources to tap, due to our indefinitely closed border and the state of MIQ. We are doing everything we can to encourage New Zealanders into truck driving, via our Te ara ki tua Road to success traineeship, but at some point, the grass will start to look greener in other countries where there are also massive truck driver shortages and life is back to normal.

Our submissions are available on our website here.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

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