Written By: - Date published: 9:13 am, October 25th, 2017 - 46 comments
Categories: Economy, public transport, transport - Tags: bikes, buses, cars, ken shirley, national land transport fund, politik, trucks, walking
For me, the vivid image of pigs rooting around in a trough of food is the image that comes to mind every time I hear the powerful trucking lobby group speak. Their ex-Act MP head put out a press statement yesterday, as reported by Politik’s PolitikTODAY news letter.
TRUCKIES OBJECT TO GREEN TRANSPORT PLANS
The Confidence and Supply Agreement between Labour and the Greens directly threaten the integrity of the National Land Transport Fund, says Road Transport Forum Chief Executive Ken Shirley.
“Prioritising use of the NLTF towards rail infrastructure, cycling and walking shows contempt for the user-pays integrity of the fund,” says Shirley.
The National Land Transport Fund is currently ring-fenced for roading projects and paid for by road users through petrol excise and road user charges.
Now I happen to agree with Ken Shirley on this. Truckers are woefully undercharged for the costs that they bring to the roading network. They should be charged a lot more and to not be subsidised by other road users in buses, cars and motorcycles.
Now the arguments about the costs of high axle weights on the maintenance costs of the roading network are well known. For a brief overview see here, here, and here. Essentially every loaded truck causes the damage of several buses (even fully loaded with passengers) and way more than cars or motorcycles. As the Greater Auckland site says when talking about the 2010 decision to increase truck weights
The economics of this issue are quite interesting really. The damage done to roads is not directly equivalent to the extra weight of a vehicle on it, but rather equates to what is known as the “Fourth Power Rule“. As the weight on the road from each axle of a truck increases, the amount of damage done to the road increases by the fourth power. This means that a 20% increase in axle weight results in more than double the road damage.
53 tonne trucks may well have more axles than 44 tonne trucks, but if they didn’t my calculation is that they would do roughly double the road damage. It appears somewhat unlikely that these heavier trucks will have to pay twice the road-user charge than the current 44 tonne trucks. If they do pay twice the amount, then I wouldn’t nearly have as much of an issue with this change.
This means that roads that are designed to withstand several decades of heavy car or bus use get far far more damaged by heavy use by trucks.
That is one of the primary reasons to increase rail transport. It gets trucks off the state highways and massively reduces the amount of maintenance on them. Because railways are so much more efficient at transporting large weights of goods for long distance, both in direct costs and in maintenance costs, effectively every dollar spent on making the rail network effective at long distance transport reduces costs of maintaining roading networks by far more.
By how much? Curiously I haven’t been able to find the NZTA or the NZTF doing any research into this.
Even so, the most extreme case of damage is on our extensive rural roading network. For instance if you look at the loadings and damage in this paper for the Road Controlling Authorities, you get an idea on exactly how expensive that the increasing use by trucks on those roads has been. When you travel on rural roads you tend to find a lot of trucks servicing rural industries, and you find a lot of damaged roads.
But truck drivers and their customers currently don’t fully pay for their road maintenance costs. Essentially the car users pay for it, tax payers pay for it, and rate payers pay for it. My rough estimates based on the known axle weights and travel indicate that trucks are paying less than half of the costs that they should be paying in road user charges.
“Unless Labour and the Greens have plans to start making rail users and cyclists contribute to the fund then this deal is a real kick in the teeth to motorists and the road transport industry.”
“The reason why trucking operators accept the high level of road user charges is due to the direct relationship the fund has to the provision and maintenance of our roading network. Using it as a slush fund to pay for other transport modes will breed a high level of resentment.”
In the urban environs, increasing the numbers of people taking public transport, cycling and walking reduces the number of people driving. That reduces the maintenance expenses of urban roads (even if bussing), reduces climate change gases that we have to pay for, and is probably healthier.
I’m waiting for an e-bike to arrive myself for the commute to work. The only reason that this is feasible in the bike unfriendly Auckland traffic is because there is now a cycleway for almost the entire route.
I take umbrage at the complete and utter gall of the self-interested fuckwit Ken Shirley trying to say that I haven’t paid for that cycleway. I have been paying for safer roads for my entire adult life. Safer roads simply hasn’t happened. It has steadily been getting worse.
In Auckland I used to be able to ride to school safely as a child – something that few are now able to do.
Around Auckland and across the country I travel less and less on roads. That is largely because there a queues of traffic and road works everywhere.
The cause of the latter can be fastened directly on the truck drivers. They should pay more for the damage they do and the costs that they impose on the roading network. We are paying for their selfish concentration on their own interests, especially against economically logical competition from rail.
Because of this powerful lobby of self-interested pigs snuffling in the trough of the road transport fund that Ken Shirley fronts. Their missing contributions for road maintenance means that there is less money available to put in the new roads, update old ones, build public transport networks, create cycleways and walkways that reduce congestion, increase user safety, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Truckers don’t own the roadways. We do. If Ken Shirley wants a stricter adherence to user pays, then he should start with his trucking members.