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Reviewing the ‘truck strike’

Written By: - Date published: 12:59 pm, July 4th, 2008 - 44 comments
Categories: slippery, transport - Tags:

As a piece of political theatre it’s good and people who walk to work, including myself, enjoyed the unusual sight and gave them a wave (some people stuck in traffic didn’t find it so fun, though). But just remember, this was a set-up – truck companies did not waste a whole morning and all that fuel protesting that they didn’t get a chance to game the RUC increases by buying up credits ahead of time (the smart companies brought up credits in June anyway). The RUC increase is a minute part of truck companies’ costs.

The Right needed a big show of ‘popular’ discontent with the Government and the Right has the problem that it’s not a mass movement so can’t get together decent sized marches. The truck companies were a good substitute, and the RUC increases just provided the excuse. If not for the RUC, they would have used fuel prices (which is what most people think it’s about anyway) or the regional fuel tax law or some other justification. The important thing was to have the protest.

[congrats to the people who put up some of the ‘let me on’ posters around Parliament, you’ve made the news (1) (2). Not bad for a cheeky idea conceived at 4:30 yesterday and posted at 5:00]

44 comments on “Reviewing the ‘truck strike’”

  1. higherstandard 1

    “As a piece of political theatre it’s good and people who walk to work, including myself, enjoyed the unusual sight and gave them a wave ”

    Now look you assured me sometime ago you didn’t want a job in politics but with this kind of duplicitous display clearly you are a natural.

    (Note to Lynn – teach me how to do smiley faces please)

    Moderation que?

  2. andy 2

    was good theatre but they came on for too many standing ovations! 🙂

    hs, colon and close bracket

  3. BeShakey 3

    It’d be interesting to know what most people believe the protest is actually about.
    It’d also be interesting to know how many of them would think it was reasonable if the situation was changed slightly. For instance, if the government told beneficiaries their benefits were going down, but that if they applied before the date they could rort the system for a while. I suspect the outroar would be so great we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they should get a second chance to rort the system. Of course the parallel isn’t exact, but I hope there are some righties here that are smart enough to get the gist.

  4. Oliver 4

    Very goo theatre, very popular theatre. But think about the actors, are they traditional National voters? Methinks not, so this does represent a big chunk of Labour votes that have gone walkabout and appear to be settling dwn under the blue canvas.

  5. lprent 5

    (Note to Lynn – teach me how to do smiley faces please)

    try colon followed by right round bracket 🙂
    try semicolon followed by right round bracket 😉
    try colon followed by capital D 😀

    urrggh I got my colons and semicolons mixed up. I was expecting the punctuation police to arrive. :] ~) *) 🙂

    There are others (quite a lot) – but that will give you an idea. I must complete that page this weekend for the FAQ

    captcha: School no
    school holidays have started? creepy.

  6. higherstandard 6

    Thanks Andy and Lynn

    Didn’t know you could do this on a computer as well as in surgery :]

  7. Daveo 7

    But think about the actors, are they traditional National voters?

    Yes. The main actors here are the trucking companies led by a former National cabinet minister. Most the guys in the trucks are being paid to be there as part of their job.

  8. Stephen 8


  9. Lew 9

    Daveo: “Most the guys in the trucks are being paid to be there as part of their job.”

    Is there any evidence for this, or are you claiming it as a fact based on Friedlander’s prominence? Truck drivers are by and large owner-operators. If you can substantiate the fact that they’re being paid to take part in a protest action, that’d be big news.

    I don’t believe it, though. Most truckies are Labour’s core constituency (I have a bunch of family and friends in the industry). I’d suggest that any time Labour finds itself on the wrong side of these guys, they need to do some serious soul-searching.

    I think the truckies are generally in the wrong on this one – not in that they’re not entitled to protest; in that the nominal grounds for their protest is somewhat fallacious. I’m convinced they do cause more roading damage than they pay in RUCs, that they’re bad for the environment and unsafe compared to other modes of transport, that long–haul trucking in NZ is a sunset industry due to the cost of fuel, and also that the RUC increases are so small as to not be significant given that cost of fuel. However I think the actual genuine reason behind the protest is symbolic – that the government are seen to be acting in bad faith, with impunity, toward their base, and I think the government ignores them at its peril.


  10. Lew 10

    HS: I look forward to the new non-humourless HS 🙂


  11. Gustavo Trellis 11

    Completely with you L. This was by far and away not an ideal scenario, but King fired the first shot with the abrupt hike in RUCs. Businesses need to plan, and putting a timetable in place and sticking to it, as well as legislating out the possibility of RUC advances (which is what King promised in the first place) would have been fine. But that’s just how things seem to be – Kiwisaver was all of a sudden compulsory for employers, despite being completely voluntary during it’s discussion phase.

  12. Kevyn 12

    So which side has been more deceitful then, the truckies who have had the tiny price of a used car added onto their operating costs (ie$4,000 to $16,000 p.a.) for an 8-axle rig travelling 100,000 to 400,000 p.a) or the government who manipulated the RUC rates table to get percentages of 3% and 7% instead of 10% and 15%.

    The average increase for the fleet is 10% but, because the RUCs for caravans have been reduced by 50% the average for the rate table is only 7% increase. Caravans don’t actually have to pay RUCs but they are included in the rates tables along with all the other exempt light trailers.

    The 3% increase is for trucks/trailers running at the legal axle weight limit. Any trucky would be shot by their accountant if they bought a truck that runs at this limit all the time. It’s cheaper to pay for extra axles than to pay RUCs above 6 tonnes/axle.

    Contrary to the road damage argument, the oft quoted STCC study actually found that less than one-third of the cost of road maintenance is due to wear-and-tear from trucks and only one-tenth is caused by wear-and-tear by cars. Most of the damage is caused by growing old. So if the 10% increase in RUCs this year on top of the 10% last year is a cost recovery then why has there been 0% increase in the petrol tax?

    A classic case of political lies, damned lies, and statistcs.

    [the RUC went up because it hadn’t gone up in 19 years and, so had fallen way behind inflation. Petrol excise is automatically adjusted for inflation each year. But you knew that, you’ve got a site called Petrol Tax. You’re just trying to fool others. SP]

  13. Aj 13

    “It’d be interesting to know what most people believe the protest is actually about.”

    Most of them have no idea, including the drivers.

  14. J 14

    “Most of them have no idea, including the drivers.”

    Really? How many truck drivers did you speak to?

  15. Scribe 15

    I find it, at best, interesting to hear all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over a former National minister’s involvement in this protest in the same week that Labour picks a former National PM to head the board of Kiwi Rail.

    It seems the Labour constituents are more partisan than their heroes in the Beehive.

  16. fraser 16

    lew re: truckies being paid to attend.

    Dont know how true the statement is – and how it pans out re: contractors, employees and owner drivers. But the “fact” that the truckies were being paid was on national radio this morning.

    Doesnt make it true of course – just saying

  17. Tane 17

    I couldn’t give you a breakdown of how many, but it’s a fact that truck drivers were paid (you could argue ordered, given they’re employees) to attend.

  18. BeShakey 18

    “I find it, at best, interesting to hear all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over a former National minister’s involvement in this protest in the same week that Labour picks a former National PM to head the board of Kiwi Rail.”

    I think people are pointing to that as part of the reason (the smallest and least convincing in my opinion, although more convincing when seen as part of the whole picture) for believing that this is largely political theatre, rather than a real protest. The fact that many of those who support the protest don’t actually know what it is about says a lot (and I agree with Lew that among other things it says something bad for Labour).

  19. Lew 19

    Fraser: Ok, thanks, I’ll look it up.

    Tane: Since most are owner-operators, they’d be contractors, not employees. And what’s your source? Same as Fraser?


  20. Scribe 20


    The fact that many of those who support the protest don’t actually know what it is about says a lot

    Is this a “fact”? And, not being the protestin’ type myself, is it unheard of for people who work in blue-collar industries like this to rally around a cause — because some guy said to — without really knowing why?

  21. Tane 21

    Lew, as I said, I’m not sure on the proportions, but the NDU has members who were required to take part in the protest today as a condition of their employment.

  22. Lew 22

    Tane: That makes it a bit clearer. Thank you.


  23. Draco TB 23


    Their company wasn’t going to be involved but the media hype was too much for companies to ignore. Free advertising.

    my emphasis

    Apparently some of the truckers involved weren’t there for the protest.

  24. Matthew Pilott 24

    What a surprise – The Herald no longer makes mention of the posters mentioned above, within half an hour of it being mentioned here.

    Their bought-out editor must have shot the incompetant tool who ran an anti-protest line!

    Honestly, they’re not even pretending any more.

  25. ben 25

    Honestly, they’re not even pretending any more.

    Well, neither are you Matthew. Call it a dead heat.

  26. Matthew Pilott 26

    I never claimed neutrality, ben. Not a particularly good comparison.

  27. Swampy 27


    for all of Annette King’s reasons for not giving notice, any large company is likely to have already purchased RUCs in advance and therefore have a cushion and advantage. All that has been stopped is using the notice period to make further purchases, and contrary to the minister’s claims, the primary beneficiaries of a notice period are likely to be small companies who haven’t got a substantial reserve already held.

    There was actually a legal requirement for more notice that was removed by the government about three years ago.

    It is considered polite to give notice of a price increase and for the most part people do go out and buy goods at the old price to the max before the new higher price kicks in. An example was New Zealand Post which let people keep posting prepaid envelopes at the old rates of postage for some time afterwards.

  28. Swampy 28


    the last time that RUCs went up was only last year, not 1989.

  29. John 29

    I’ve been a bit concerned about this, on Monday I received an email from a woman called Sandy asking for us to support a road transport protest that Friday. This was before Minister King even announced the RUC increase

  30. J Mex 30

    Colin Espiner has a good write up on his blog on this…

    Labours political nous does seem to have absolutely deserted them. They totally mishandled this one.

    “Labour has had a good laugh at National’s expense recently over its use of strategists. But judging by recent events, maybe Labour should be spending a bit more on external strategy too. Perhaps Labour ought to give Crosby Textor a call.”


    Is the captcha now reading minds! Got this one first time up…

    “their annete”

    Psychic captcha ver 2.0 now just needs to work on its spelling.

  31. Dilip 31

    SP say: “[the RUC went up because it hadn’t gone up in 19 years and, so had fallen way behind inflation. Petrol excise is automatically adjusted for inflation each year. But you knew that, you’ve got a site called Petrol Tax. You’re just trying to fool others. SP]”

    That is not true SP the road users charge went up last year I see you and lots of people say it has only gone up two times in nineteen year that is wrong it has gone up two times in twelve months.

  32. Ha! a wee break and all these new trolls (or old trolls with new user names). I must offer my congratulations to Tony for a good labour bad stunt. I’d be very interested in an EFA inquiry being made about this one. Just to see who was paying the bills of course…

  33. Kevyn 33

    SP, The petrol tax has only been indexed to inflation for three years so it hadn’t increased for until 2002. That increase was to fund PT so, according to the road cost allocation model, the cost had to targetted at the alleged beneficiaries – the urban motorist. The second petrol tax increase was again targetted at urban areas so again the bulk of the cost was apportioned to light vehicles.

    The two recent increases in RUCs might be justified in light of the increase in the construction price index but without knowing the ESAL split between steel and airbag suspension it is impossible to know to what extent increased airbag use has offset the cost increases. Which is why I asked if you knew where the road cost allocation study Annette referred to could be found.

    Perhaps you could ask Annette why road user charges for light trailers were reduced in the rates table when nobody is required to pay them. Or why the 3% increases only apply to the tiny minority of trucks that are always loaded to their weight limit and never need to buy supplementary licences. Or why petrol cars aren’t expected to meet their fair share of the 10% increase in maintenance costs?

    Having a website called petroltax does mean that I know that road maintenance spending had increased only in line with inflation despite huge increases in traffic volumes, especially truck traffic. More truck km equals more dollars paid in RUCs. For the numbers to end up the way they do Transit’s improved maintenance management techniques must have been reducing costs at least as fast as inflation was increasing them. The nett result was no need for any increase in the maintenance component of RUCs. In fact, thanks to Dr Brash and the flood of used cars revenue for the road fund increased faster than inflation simply because traffic growth rates finally outsrripped the rate of inflation, the exact opposite of what happened under the Muldoon miracle that got our highways into the mess they are still mostly in. Anyway, since revenue increased faster than traffic or maintence spending we were finally able to see some real progress on the crash reduction program begun by the National Road Board in 1985. It’s a pity Helen’s reaction to Banksie’s mayoral aspirations was to decide that Transit “has been spending too much on safety and not enough on congestion.” Alas, without that political decision overriding the wisdom of Steve Fitzgerald and the National Road Safety Committee there would be 1,000 empty graves by now.

    From the tone of your responses I suspect you are either a politician, an ex-politician or an aspiring politician. Or one of those very average people who hates information because it means they have to think instead of regurgitating someone elses opinions. I think one of the former is most likely because you do seem to think about your beliefs or at least you don’t sound like you’re parroting some “role model” or political hero.

    Me, I’m a system analysts. If the facts don’t fit then I’ll (grudgingly) admit it if provided with the source material so I can check the conclusions, methodology and assumtions for myself.

  34. Yawn – as my mate Karl Rove says – explaining is losing. Big explanation; big loser. How’s that working out for you Keyvn?

  35. Kevyn 35

    Robinsod, Is that an ass you’ve got for your picture or a mule. Either seems appropriate.

    I’ll reserve my decision on whether your one of those big ego-small brains types until I’ve seen more of your comments.

    Well at least you’ve given me one thing to be cheerful about – I’ve never met Carl Rove and don’t know or care who he is. Which fact I suspect will make him just as cheerful if you tell him.

  36. Doug 36

    Looks like we will have to employ the Indian truckers Union, at least they work for their members. Unlike union officials in little old New Zealand, who work for the Government?

  37. Felix 37

    Good to see you’re alive ‘sod, and yep, they’re mostly the same old trolls with new names.

    The new one’s aren’t very different either:

    Me, I’m a system analysts.

    Of course you are dear.

  38. bill brown 38

    I’ll reserve my decision on whether your one of those big ego-small brains types until I’ve seen more of your comments.

    Oh Kevyn, you have so much to learn.

  39. bill brown 39

    The new one’s aren’t very different either:

    Me, I’m a system analysts.

    Wow Felix, that was a good find, I doubt many made it that far!

  40. I think THIS cartoon summed up yesterday a bit more succinctly than the one on your post – enjoy!


  41. Interesting thesis – that a group that are typically regarded as Labour voters put on a show of force at their own cost because the right need to have some sort of show of force against the government.

    Have I missed anything?

  42. Kevyn 42

    Perhaps if you folks broadened your interests you might have known what Friedlander’s ultimate objective is. The RTF’s mag is sold in supermarkets and its the only media outlet that has reported on Friedlander’s real objections to RUCs. If you’re all as smart as you think you are you can work out the consequences for the railways and average motorists without any more of my help.

  43. RedLogix 43


    I’ve been totally offline since last weekend. Been tramping slowly and very coldly in the Tararua’s this last week… my real love … and I’ve only been home a few hours, so I’ve missed all the fun. But not having immediate access to the RTF mag you mention above… let me guess. This protest was organised by the big trucking company OWNERS because they are worried that Labour will make rail competitive again.

    Nothing to do with their publically stated motives at all I should imagine.

  44. Swampy 44

    No Reddo,

    They are rightly concerned that Labour wants to muscle in on another sector of the economy and muscle the private sector out of it. Thereby reducing choice and increasing costs in the marketplace.

    Rail being in competition with roads has led us to the situation of now, which the government thinks they can “solve” by forcing the private company that runs it to come to the bargaining table and agree to sell at a very generous price, funded by the taxpayer, and now that the government has got a bit more muscle by doing this, they can then turn on the privately owned trucking companies and corner them the same way.

    There’s still a hard core of the Labour movement who believe in socialism and who believe that rail is part of a core Government function, and should be restored to the monopoly long-distance-freight common carrier status it historically held in NZ for many years. As well as the freight carriage, there was also a monopoly on long distance passenger bus travel in favour of the Road Services division of the Railways department. All those shuttles that run up and down the Island wouldn’t have been allowed back in the 1970s in this country.

    There’s also a lot of waffle about sustainability, and climate change, and a whole lot of other stuff that the government is not going to slit their political throats on, yet they still milk it for all it is worth. The only sustainability most of the government cares about is sustaining their time in office.

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