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Thursday, April 1

Ratepayers to be hit by heavier trucks

Ratepayers will be stuck with the bill when heavier, longer trucks roll out on their local roads, the Green Party said today.

The Government yesterday announced that heavier (up to 53 tonnes), longer (up to 22 metres), trucks will now be allowed to operate on our roads.

“Bigger trucks will have a devastating impact on our roads,” said Green Party Transport spokesperson Gareth Hughes. “The increase is equivalent to adding three elephants to each truck, then multiply this by hundreds of thousand of journeys each year.”

“Increased Road User Charges imposed on truck operators will cover the cost of their damage to state highways but they will not cover the damage done to local roads. Ratepayers will be picking up half the bill instead.”

Eighty-eight percent of the network is made up of local roads. There are 13,846 local bridges many of which could also require strengthening. The Ministry of Transport makes it clear that increased RUC will not cover the full costs of upgrading bridges to accommodate the increased loads.

“The region’s ratepayers will have to pay for repairs and upgrades to their roads and bridges due to the increased damage these heavier trucks will impose. This is why Local Government New Zealand opposed the proposal,” Mr Hughes said.

“Roads are the single biggest expense of local authorities, nearly 30 percent of their annual budgets. Costs that should be borne by truckies are going to be borne by ratepayers through increased rates.”

Freight volumes are forecast to grow by around 75 percent by 2030 and the vast bulk would go by heavy truck if the Government continues its current emphasis on roads. KiwiRail estimates they will lose 12 percent of their freight tonnes because of this move to heavier trucks.

“Rail freight and coastal shipping are sustainable, safe, and energy efficient alternative to bigger trucks. Yet there has, to date, been no analysis of how allowing bigger trucks will undermine them,” Mr Hughes said.

“This is a strategic freight transport decision made in an economic vacuum.”

In a report from the Treasury obtained under the Official Information Act, Treasury does not recommend a lifting on the restriction of heavy vehicle limits “until a more detailed analysis has been undertaken which considers the broader costs and benefits”. This analysis has not been done.

“Supposed short-term productivity gains have blinded the Minister of Transport into making a decision that will ultimately cost ratepayers,” said Mr Hughes.