It is a small victory, but an essential one for the principles of the generalised fourth power law related to roading maintenance.
RNZ is aware of at least one company which has given drivers maps of which truckstops are covered by the fuel tax and told them they were now required to refuel elsewhere when possible.
They were told to refuel in areas like Hamilton, Dargaville, Whangārei, Wairakei and Te Kuiti instead.
National Road Carriers Association chief executive David Aitken said that should come as no surprise given the increased cost for companies.
“What you will find is any companies travelling outside the Auckland region or inside the Auckland region will be filling up outside … it just makes sense to do that.”
Hopefully this will point to a longer term trend of truckers starting to avoid Auckland roads. It isn’t like these freeloaders actually pay for the damage that they inflict on our roads, both local and those funded by the Land Transport Authority.
The main reason that there isn’t sufficient money to build the kind of transport systems that Auckland needs is because the cost of maintaining our existing roads is so high.
Instead of building the roads and public transport required for the population of this export orientated city, commuters wind up paying mostly for the trucks that grind their way up and down our motorways for the the rest of NZ.
The explanation for this is in the 4th power law, which is a rough but fairly accurate empirical calculation developed in the 1950s and 60s to look at the cost of axle weights on deformation and damage to roads. The crucial part of the calculation is
Truck to Car
Finally, using the Fourth Power Law, compare a 20,000 lb single axle (typical of a moderately loaded truck) to a normal 2,000 lb single axle from a car.
The truck has 10,000 times more impact than a car.
The same applies to heavier loaded multi-axle trucks which are several orders of magnitude more likely to damage roads.
What this means is that all of our roads are over-engineered for the largest trucks rather than the light cars that do most of the travelling. The cost of the building a road goes up exponentially according to the upper axle weights that will be regularly travelling on it.
For some strange reason the road user charges levied on trucks do not reflect this, and the trucking lobby maintains voracious lobby groups to ensure they don’t get levied for the cost of the damage that they do.
Sure you can argue that the economic benefit of trucks add to our economy. However it isn’t exactly hard to argue that applies to lighter trucks far more than heavier ones and it is far more economic to build for those. Moreover, those are also the vehicles that generate more economic benefit for NZ, dispersing and collecting deliveries to the far more economic railheads.
To shift economics of transport funding we shouldn’t need regional fuel taxes. All that is required is to change the RUC costs. Just stop subsidising truckies – raise the RUC steadily in accordance with the 4th power law and watch the cost sensitive trucking companies move to a more economically useful behaviour. Our roads and wallets will benefit.