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:
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.
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