RTF calls for roadside drug testing

Driving under the influence of drugs is a deliberate act and should be treated accordingly in law.

Statistics show that drivers impaired by drugs are causing harm and death on our roads; more deaths than drunk drivers. We need to get those drugged drivers off the road as soon as possible and hold them accountable for their willful disregard of the lives of others.

The Road Transport Forum has lodged its submission on the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill, fully supporting the establishment of a new random roadside oral fluid testing regime to sit alongside the current compulsory impairment test (CIT) approach to drug driving. We agree that addressing drug driving is essential to reduce road trauma and make our roads safer.

While the time it has taken for a testing regime to come about is frustrating, the legislation introduced in 2020 should be in place this year. It will finally give police the power to conduct random roadside saliva-based testing of drivers they suspect are impaired by the influence of drugs. This is capacity police in many other jurisdictions already have.

For commercial drivers, including truck drivers, New Zealand’s public roads are their workplaces. They share these roads with members of the public who may not have the driving hours, skills, or drug-testing regimes that professional drivers have.

Drug impaired drivers on public roads present significant risk to commercial drivers, as well as all others on the road. While businesses can mitigate their own health and safety risks, they cannot mitigate the randomness of drugged drivers on public roads.

Commercial truck drivers are drug tested pre-employment, randomly during their employment, and post any kind of incident during their work time.

The RTF believes other drivers should also have this scrutiny to ensure better road safety in New Zealand and meet the goals of the Government’s Road to Zero strategy and action plan.

In this current climate there is a tendency to be overly concerned about the rights of drugged drivers. We contend that those rights must not be at the expense of the rights of those they maim and kill. So, while we support a harm minimisation approach to drug driving, this should not be at the expense of taking the offences seriously.

Harm minimisation will require adequate funds to cover drug education and rehabilitation programmes and we have yet to see evidence of this in New Zealand. In fact, drug rehabilitation is woefully under-funded.

Our submission comments on a couple of the processes outlined in the Bill which we think are confusing. These include:

  • If there are to be two consecutive oral fluid tests, as outlined, the reasons need to be explicit. We can’t see any reason for this and we believe there should be one test, consistent with the drink driving testing regime.
  • The process around which tool for police to use is confusing. We believe the police officer should have all the tools at their disposal to test for drugs and not be restricted to a process that excludes CIT or oral testing if one is done before the other. These leaves too many loopholes.

We also believe to provide adequate statistical analysis around the true harm caused by drug use on New Zealand roads, that drivers involved in crashes should always be tested for drugs, whether or not they are injured, and if they are deceased as part of the autopsy process. This is an area of data gathering that is currently not robust because if the presence of alcohol is obvious, the drivers are not then necessarily tested for drugs.

Overall, we believe the Government should just get on and make this Bill law.

You can read our submission here.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

 

Time to show truck drivers some appreciation

This week we have seen once again, the contribution truck drivers make to New Zealand.

Through natural disasters, pandemics, Covid-19 level changes and lockdowns, and all weathers, truck drivers keep delivering the essentials New Zealanders need to live on a daily basis.

As with the Level 3 lockdown of Auckland in August last year, this week’s move to Level 3 in Auckland again presented many challenges for trucking operators and their drivers with lengthy delays at some road blocks. The photo above shows the south bound traffic, between Pokeno and Mercer on Monday evening.

So it seems particularly timely that next week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, from 22 to 28 February. The theme is: truck drivers deliver.

As we are close to entering year two of Covid-19 restrictions, including the New Zealand border remaining closed indefinitely, it is fair to say, on-time delivery is a moving feast. The supply chain is stretched so tight we all have our fingers crossed it won’t break completely.

While road blocks on Auckland’s borders present an inconvenience for people in cars, for truck drivers the impacts are significant. If they are stuck in traffic for two to three hours, as has happened this week, that can be detrimental, or even dangerous, to their cargo, for example, live animals or perishable goods. Animal welfare is a major concern and goods that spoil unnecessarily cost everyone. These delays can also push the driver over the legal hours they are allowed to work, which has safety implications. But they can’t just walk out of the line of traffic and abandon their load.

Police have told us trucking operators should be prepared to adjust on time delivery this week. With all due respect, even our industry’s master logistics planners are challenged when large numbers of Aucklanders ignore the parameters of the alert level and try and get in our out of the area when they are patently, not allowed. On Monday it was reported that the Police estimated 25 percent of those who queued at the Mercer border road block were “unnecessary travellers”. That one-in-four caused mayhem for the others around them.

After the lengthy delays at road blocks in Auckland’s Level 3 last year, the Road Transport Forum asked government officials if things could be learned from that, so that improvements could be made for the inevitable next lockdown.

Sadly, we didn’t see any evidence of that this week. There were times when it actually seemed worse. But truck drivers did what they always do, and just got on with the job as best they could. That is not to say there have not been costs associated with this lockdown and negative impacts on businesses, but that’s another story.

It is important that truck drivers get the credit they deserve and there are a number of events being organised around New Zealand next week to do that. We would like to thank NZ Truck & Drivermagazine for organising and promoting the week and you can find out more about it here.

If you are out and about next week, alert levels permitting, give a truck driver a wave of appreciation.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Focus on driver behaviour to address appalling road toll

Eleven people were killed on the roads between Christmas Eve 2020 and 5 January 2021. Even on a scale of all the other things that have happened in just this second week of 2021, we should not overlook this as being deadly serious. Four people were killed in the same period the previous year. What’s going wrong?

Motorsport legend Greg Murphy told RNZ this week that it is too easy to get a driving licence in New Zealand and it’s time for an overhaul, where drivers get better training to make them more aware and prepared for what can really happen on the roads. I couldn’t agree more.

He also said being told the same stuff every year by Government advertising was wearing thin and we need action, not more words. Again, I couldn’t agree more.

Of the 11 people who died this holiday period, five were not wearing seatbelts. Most modern cars make extremely annoying noises if you try and drive without a seatbelt, and how many advertisements have we seen about “making it click”?

But what happens in Wellington is strategies and policies are developed, over very long timeframes, with consultation – that may or may not be considered – and out pops the likes of the Road to Zero strategy and action plan. As the name suggests, the strategy adopts a vision where no-one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes, and where no death or serious injury while travelling on our roads is acceptable.

The road network is the trucking industry’s primary place of work and as such, the sector is committed to improving road safety. But we believe there are some serious flaws with Road to Zero, not the least an impossible target that will just turn the public off.

There is a strong emphasis on road trimmings to create safer roads and slowing down traffic to, on some city streets, 30 kph. We believe there is not enough focus on driver behaviour and distractions, which are the main causes of accidents.

Changing driver behaviour is a long-term game and relies on an in-depth look at what’s going wrong on the roads, licencing, and ongoing driver education.

It would be good to start with really robust crash data including the factors that caused the crash and attribution of liability. Statistics for crashes need to be set out in real terms, that take into account population growth, and light and heavy vehicle number growth, otherwise a proportionate understanding of accident rates will be unable to be reached. Cross comparisons are fraught with risk. They are imprecise as different jurisdictions have different contextual characteristics for example, Australia’s straight road compared to New Zealand’s with a bend or bridge every couple of kilometres. We need to focus on our situation, not try and mold the statistics to match another country.

The Government has become obsessed with speed, or should I say the lack of it. Rather than improving road surfaces, it prefers to slow traffic down to sometimes ridiculous speeds, like 30kph. They will not drive cars off the roads this way – New Zealanders love their cars and outside major cities, need them to get around. They may drive perverse behaviour borne from frustration though. Try driving 30 kph around Auckland without someone seriously tailgating you.

Greg Murphy is right, it’s time to turn attention to the drivers.

Professional truck drivers are held to a higher account than other drivers in that their compliance and enforcement history can result in job loss and prohibition from driving heavy vehicles. There are three pieces of legislation covering their work. There have been massive improvements in performance and safety systems in modern trucks.

Yet truck drivers are out on the road every day with people who aren’t held to account until it is too late. They face the ultimate accountability when they look up from their phone and see a truck bearing down on them because they are on the wrong side of the road. No matter how slow you make the traffic go, if a car hits a truck, the car comes off worse.

Dealing with driver behaviour and giving drivers the tools to drive themselves out of any trouble they might get into, must be top of the list if we want to get serious about reducing the road toll.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Focus on driver behaviour to address appalling road toll

Eleven people were killed on the roads between Christmas Eve 2020 and 5 January 2021. Even on a scale of all the other things that have happened in just this second week of 2021, we should not overlook this as being deadly serious. Four people were killed in the same period the previous year. What’s going wrong?

Motorsport legend Greg Murphy told RNZ this week that it is too easy to get a driving licence in New Zealand and it’s time for an overhaul, where drivers get better training to make them more aware and prepared for what can really happen on the roads. I couldn’t agree more.

He also said being told the same stuff every year by Government advertising was wearing thin and we need action, not more words. Again, I couldn’t agree more.

Of the 11 people who died this holiday period, five were not wearing seatbelts. Most modern cars make extremely annoying noises if you try and drive without a seatbelt, and how many advertisements have we seen about “making it click”?

But what happens in Wellington is strategies and policies are developed, over very long timeframes, with consultation – that may or may not be considered – and out pops the likes of the Road to Zero strategy and action plan. As the name suggests, the strategy adopts a vision where no-one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes, and where no death or serious injury while travelling on our roads is acceptable.

The road network is the trucking industry’s primary place of work and as such, the sector is committed to improving road safety. But we believe there are some serious flaws with Road to Zero, not the least an impossible target that will just turn the public off.

There is a strong emphasis on road trimmings to create safer roads and slowing down traffic to, on some city streets, 30 kph. We believe there is not enough focus on driver behaviour and distractions, which are the main causes of accidents.

Changing driver behaviour is a long-term game and relies on an in-depth look at what’s going wrong on the roads, licencing, and ongoing driver education.

It would be good to start with really robust crash data including the factors that caused the crash and attribution of liability. Statistics for crashes need to be set out in real terms, that take into account population growth, and light and heavy vehicle number growth, otherwise a proportionate understanding of accident rates will be unable to be reached. Cross comparisons are fraught with risk. They are imprecise as different jurisdictions have different contextual characteristics for example, Australia’s straight road compared to New Zealand’s with a bend or bridge every couple of kilometres. We need to focus on our situation, not try and mold the statistics to match another country.

The Government has become obsessed with speed, or should I say the lack of it. Rather than improving road surfaces, it prefers to slow traffic down to sometimes ridiculous speeds, like 30kph. They will not drive cars off the roads this way – New Zealanders love their cars and outside major cities, need them to get around. They may drive perverse behaviour borne from frustration though. Try driving 30 kph around Auckland without someone seriously tailgating you.

Greg Murphy is right, it’s time to turn attention to the drivers.

Professional truck drivers are held to a higher account than other drivers in that their compliance and enforcement history can result in job loss and prohibition from driving heavy vehicles. There are three pieces of legislation covering their work. There have been massive improvements in performance and safety systems in modern trucks.

Yet truck drivers are out on the road every day with people who aren’t held to account until it is too late. They face the ultimate accountability when they look up from their phone and see a truck bearing down on them because they are on the wrong side of the road. No matter how slow you make the traffic go, if a car hits a truck, the car comes off worse.

Dealing with driver behaviour and giving drivers the tools to drive themselves out of any trouble they might get into, must be top of the list if we want to get serious about reducing the road toll.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Telling our story

I have spent much of the past week talking to media about the impacts of Northport’s decision to berth the Constantinos P and offload 1340 containers bound for Auckland and further south.

Every story has two sides and my role is to ensure our industry is heard. There are two parts to this particular action – the complications of the berth itself and moving containers, and the impact on the road traffic between Auckland and Northport with more trucks on the road than normal at the busiest time of the year.

I’m not going to relitigate the port’s decision to berth the ship. The media clearly fixated on this being an action to save Christmas for retailers and shoppers. Suffice to say we don’t want a repeat without a lot more planning and communication, as well as consideration of the impact on moving logs, the port’s mainstay.

Trucking is an incredibly adaptable and flexible industry, as New Zealanders have seen in all emergency and disaster situations. Drivers turn up and move goods where they need to go. But the supply chain is under enormous pressure and the worst is yet to come.

While New Zealanders are known for their creative solutions, those also need to be well thought out, manageable, and not create new and additional problems.

The supply chain issues are putting tremendous strain on a number of businesses throughout New Zealand and with that comes crippling stress. While this kind of pressure can be sustainable for short bursts, when it is over a longer term there can be serious consequences for both human and economic health and wellbeing.

While much of New Zealand will be taking a break over the next few weeks, for many others this is the busiest and most stressful time of year. The days of New Zealand shutting down for Christmas are long gone, for business anyway.

Police, like truck drivers, will be out on the road in force. They, quite rightly, saw that the movement of containers from Northport to Auckland and further south had the potential to impact road safety. There were going to be a lot more trucks on the road, some of those roads not suitable for that volume of heavy traffic, at one of the busiest times of the year as people prepare for Christmas and go on holiday.

There has been a lot of publicity about the fact that the truck checks found some operators coming up short.

I can’t defend the indefensible. The road is our truck drivers’ workplace. They need to be safe at work and their employers, family and community want them to go home at the end of every shift alive and well.

I can point out that 11 of 534 trucks inspected were taken off the road. The majority of the trucks were road worthy and faults found were minor and fixable. Bald tyres, inadequate braking and drivers over their hours however, don’t help the trucking industry with its “social licence” to operate. That is, the support of those outside our industry for what we do.

The anti-trucking lobby constantly push to “take dangerous trucks off the road”. I reply to that by saying trucks on the road are not dangerous and if they are, the Police and Waka Kotahi will take the operator’s to task, as we have seen in Northland.

To give the public confidence in the trucking industry, everyone needs to be mindful of how they see us and how we are portrayed in the media.

I know our industry has a busy road ahead while much of New Zealand have their feet up at the beach, lake or river, with a cold beer in their hands.

Keep up the good work, stay safe out there, and be assured we are doing everything we can to look at the supply chain issues that will carry well into 2021.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

 

Transmission Gully an impressive asset

This week, myself and Road Transport Forum board member and road freight transport business owner Deborah O’Brien toured the famous Transmission Gully build. We weren’t disappointed.

This road will enhance travel into and out of the Wellington region with a 27 kilometre motorway from Mackays Crossing to Linden that will be a key part of the 110km Wellington Northern Corridor (Wellington to Levin).

This will make a big difference in terms of safety and resilience for the region once the road opens in September next year. It will be better able to resist and recover from earthquakes and storms than the current State Highway 1 coastal road – which will remain as an alternative route.

From the perspective of freight movement, Transmission Gully is long overdue. Truck drivers will find it easier to access the inter-island ferries and distribution hubs in the area, and travel times should reduce.

I have been a fairly vocal critic of the time it has taken to complete this project but when you drive it from go to whoa, it is apparent what a massive undertaking it has been.

More than 10 million cubic metres of earth have been moved, which is one of the largest volumes of earth to be moved on a New Zealand roading project to date. It has a steep incline and the highest point on the motorway, the Wainui Saddle, is 253m above sea level. On the day we visited it was pretty windy and cold up there – Wellington summer – and apparently it can snow in the winter.

A lot of thought has gone into the environment and road safety, which is good to see. From a safety perspective there is a 250 metre long ‘arrestor bed’ on the long northbound descent from the Wainui Saddle. This is a gravel-filled ramp adjacent to the road that can be used to stop a runaway vehicle. It has been designed to bring heavy vehicles to a halt in an emergency, such as a brake or gearbox failure.

The project has included 27 kilometres of stream remediation and 2.5 million native trees and plants will span the roadside.

Massive infrastructure projects, such as this road, are vital to New Zealand’s economy, particularly as we face ongoing economic ups and downs as a result of Covid-19.

As a country that relies on trade, we need a modern, fast, road infrastructure – 93 percent of New Zealand’s freight is delivered by road. We need a roading network to match the supply chain task that allows the fast, most efficient and most cost-effective movement of imports and exports, and the goods every New Zealand needs every day. 

We are seeing growth in road freight transport and while there is some collective romantic notion that rail freight can replace road, it can’t. There isn’t the infrastructure, or the market demand. Even when freight is put on a train, it’s taken onto and/or off that train by a truck.

It’s no secret we want to see more investment in roads – some are at a critical and dangerous point of requiring either rebuilding, or extensive repairs. We will continue to make the evidence-based case for this as a way to power our economy and assist the road transport industry to safely and efficiently fulfill its mandate to deliver freight for its customers.

But to end on a positive note, Transmission Gully is impressive and we are thrilled to see the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project getting underway today, with a sod-turning event with the Prime Minister.

Let’s build more roads.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

 

Truck drivers keeping your Christmas merry

As you plan for a well-deserved merry Christmas with lots of food, drink and gifts, spare a thought for the truck drivers who are under pressure to get you all those goods so you can enjoy your holidays.

Truck drivers have had a particularly challenging year. Like everyone, worldwide, Covid-19 has thrown them many curved balls. But truck drivers can be relied on in disasters, pandemics, floods, and all manner of bad weather, to get through and get the goods people need for their everyday life. Pretty much everything comes on the back of a truck at some stage; 93 percent of New Zealand’s freight in fact.

The lead up to Christmas and the summer holiday season add stress – not only are there more deliveries to make, there are people on the road who really shouldn’t be. Stressed, distracted, drunk, and/or drug impaired drivers seem to come out in droves at this time of year. The road is a truck driver’s work place and they share it with the general public who may not have the driving skills or desire to make that road a safe place.

The Road Transport Forum didn’t have a conference this year, or the opportunity to present the awards we normally do to those in the road freight transport industry who have excelled in some way. We hope to give awards at our 2021 conference in September – if Covid-19 allows.

We are right behind other initiatives to recognise the role truck drivers play not only in our economy, but also in keeping other people on the roads safe and sometimes, being heroes. We see and hear of many instances where drivers have gone out of their way to help someone else, or save lives. They are often first on the scene of an accident, which can be harrowing.

As it is for workers in many other industries, there is uneducated and unfair shade thrown at truck drivers. But without them, where would you be?

The Road Transport Forum is backing an initiative early next year – New Zealand Truck Driver Appreciation Week (22-28 February). This will be an opportunity to share stories about the good work truck drivers do and what it is like for them on the road. Remember during the New Zealand Government’s Covid-19 lockdown, while many citizens were enjoying life at home, truck drivers were out on the road without any public toilets open or places to get food, delivering to supermarkets, medical supplies, and other essential goods.

I was privileged to head to Invercargill earlier this month to attend the New Zealand Road Transport Hall of Fame event, which recognises outstanding contributions to the industry. Dates had been moved, to accommodate Covid-19 restrictions, but the event went ahead eventually and the first woman was inducted – Anita Dynes. A crucial part of the well-known family business, Anita is an iconic industry figure with interests in dairy, forestry and wine, in addition to road transport. The role of women in road freight transport is often overlooked, so even though it took until 2020, at least now that recognition is starting to come.

While the Mayor of Invercargill is experiencing some issues, there is no denying what a fantastic job he has done for his city. It might seem a long way away, but it’s worth the visit and the RTF will be holding our 2021 conference there on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 September – and immediately following next year’s Hall of Fame.

Other Hall of Fame inductees were Graham Sheldrake, who as a tireless industry champion has assisted RTF with the launch of our industry traineeship Road to success; NZ Truck & Driver magazine (among other titles) publisher Trevor Woolston; RTF Board member and logging industry stalwart Warwick Wilshier; tyre industry legend Jim Black; and posthumously, Sir Jack Newman, who was instrumental in growing one of New Zealand’s largest road transport businesses, Newman Bros Ltd.

It’s good to reflect on the history of our industry as we plan for the many challenges ahead with a disrupted supply chain because of the pandemic; increasing scrutiny, rules and regulations; slow and poorly maintained roads; rapid changes in technology; and climate change and all its implications.

For a long time yet, New Zealand will rely on truck drivers to keep the economy moving and the home fires burning.

On a final note, I’d like to acknowledge that this is Mark Ngatuere’s last day at the RTF. He will be sorely missed by myself and our team here in Wellington, and I know by the wider industry. We wish him well in his travels and look forward to hopefully working with him again at some point.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

Supply chain pressure adds to Christmas stress

It may not matter if you were naughty or nice this year – though the opportunities to be naughty would have been limited – as Santa may not be able to fulfill your Christmas present wishes.

Even those well-organised people who have already started Christmas shopping, might find they can’t source the presents they want for under the tree if those products are coming from overseas.

The impacts of Covid-19 are wreaking havoc on global supply chains and New Zealand, being a long way from anywhere else and without the buying might of the bigger markets like Europe and the USA, is in danger of being left out in the cold.

I have been reading for weeks commentaries about global supply chains being near breaking point and containers being in short supply, and hearing in New Zealand that there are serious issues as shipping lines cancel sailings here to service more lucrative routes.

The nature of our export driven economy is if nothing is coming in, it’s going to make it hard for those wanting to send out the primary products and goods we sell around the world. While some companies can charter their own ships, not all our exporters are in that position.

Imports and exports come and go by sea and air, but with our border closed by the Government, there are only about one-sixth of the previous international flights servicing New Zealand.

Paying passengers are a trickle, and they used to subsidise the cost of freight on planes – the perishable goods like our seafood, flowers, and fruit. Air freight is significantly reduced and considerably more expensive. It is currently heavily subsidised by the Government, but that can’t go on forever.

Road freight is a critical part of the global supply chain and for our part, if imports and exports can’t come into the country or get out, our industry will take a hit.

We believe there are solutions and that those in the supply chain are better to find them than Government, which doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on the urgency of this issue, or how it will impact the country.

The Government can talk all they like about New Zealanders taking jobs and making things here; but that just isn’t going to happen at the pace required to meet market demands.

Also, much of our trading arrangements require that we take imported goods so that we can export goods – give and take.

We have asked the Government to urgently turn its attention to the supply chain, but we are not holding our breath. We have real concerns that without that understanding of the supply chain, we will be in the same position with any potential Covid-19 vaccines that we were with distribution of the flu vaccines earlier this year. Government pushed for people to get vaccinated but then found its own distribution network couldn’t match the demand. It is estimated flu kills about 500 people a year in New Zealand, which is about two percent of all deaths.

We suggest you be patient and creative with your Christmas shopping, and expect prices to reflect the stress on the supply chain. And don’t bank on Santa making it here – our border is closed after all.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

When no, means no

There are shades of outgoing US President Donald Trump’s behaviour in those behind the Vote Yes lobby to legalise recreational cannabis in New Zealand. Neither seem to be able to accept the outcome of democratic elections.

Sure, the cannabis referendum result was close, but the No vote won the majority of 50.7%. Most parties, including Labour which is now the majority party in Government, said prior to the election that they would consider the result of the referendum to be binding.

Some of the Yes lobby will try and relitigate the referendum result. They’ve already started the allegations of too much money on the other lobbying side, and misinformation. They might want to look in the mirror on some of that; just saying it doesn’t make it true.

We just know from our engagement – which didn’t cost anything and was not to tell people how to vote, but to suggest they be aware the legislation was not complete, medicinal cannabis was already legal, and there were unexplored, unintended consequences – how well-armed the Yes Vote lobby was with social media warriors. Much of the information they pushed was completely incorrect. And let’s just say, they weren’t kind.

The referendum result is a success for the RTF as we worked hard to ensure people were aware of some of those unintended consequences of legalising recreational cannabis, including the impact on road safety and the implications for workplaces. These were the concerns of those we represent.

We know New Zealand has a problem with cannabis use, but legalising it was not going to help those who have to manage workplace health and safety within pretty strict laws, or those drivers for whom the road is their workplace.

None of the policy work around the unintended consequences had been done before putting the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill to the vote. That left too many unanswered questions. People like a bit of certainty around big decision making and it just wasn’t there with this Bill.

More deaths on our roads are caused by drug-drivers than purely drunk drivers. We think the first step to doing something about that is to give the Police powers and tools to roadside test drivers for drugs in their system.

We hope that one of the first pieces of legislation the new Government turns its attention to is the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill, which was introduced in July this year.

This new law will allow Police to test if drivers are under the influence of drugs, just as they do for alcohol. We will certainly support this Bill as it goes through the proper processes to become law, which were delayed by the election.

While our industry has strict protocols around drug and alcohol testing, we cannot account for the other road users that share the road with professional drivers. We rely on the Police to do that; we need them to have the right tools to keep the road safe.

For the record, the total number of votes received in the cannabis referendum was 2,908,071 – 1,406,973 Yes and 1,474,635 No. There were 26,463 votes where the voter has not clearly indicated the option for which they wished to vote.

– Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum

An election like no other

Like the year 2020 generally, it felt like New Zealanders just wanted the election to be over and done with. That probably goes for the politicians too!

A weariness had set in over recent weeks, possibly because most people felt the overall result was ‘baked in’ and a forgone conclusion. Most of us knew there would be a Labour government in some form. The questions remained though, would they need the Greens and would Winston sneak over the line?

Full credit to Jacinda Ardern and her team, they won big. Kiwis recognised the hard work of the Government during the COVID crisis and they opted for stability. It is true that we will need stability as, in the view of the RTF, the worst of the crisis is ahead of us with the economic challenges we will face over the next few years.

Whether the PM chooses to enter into some kind of arrangement with the Greens or the Maori Party is open for discussion for a little while longer, although it has clearly been signalled that this will not be a coalition government.

It probably isn’t any secret that the RTF won’t be disappointed to see the Green Party out of transport. Their lack of understanding around the movement of freight, let alone a blatant antagonism towards roading, is palpable. That will be part of the PM’s balancing act.  

Of course, we are keen to work with whoever is selected transport minister; be it the incumbent Phil Twyford, who we enjoy engaging with, or somebody new. The opportunity for a transport sector accord, as suggested by Twyford and promoted by RTF, would be a really constructive way of partnering with the government around the challenges we face, including with workforce, skills, regulations and health and safety.  

Labour does need to do more than it did in its first term to meet business halfway. We are concerned with their proposed agenda when it comes to employment legislation; doing away with the owner driver or contractor driver model and forcing rules that will make it harder for our industry to keep delivering for New Zealand’s economic wellbeing.

We will keep up the fight for better roads. We know industry can have an impact here, given that our recent calls for an increase in the roading maintenance budget resulted in the Government increasing the amount spent by $100 million per annum for the next five years.

Finally, like all of the private sector, the road transport industry requires infrastructure investment to be delivered, not just announced. We will be eager champions of the roll-out of projects, both roading and others, as they will improve the ability of trucking operators to go about their work on safer roads, and will also provide work for industry members supporting the construction sector.

I consider that this election brings the road transport industry a lot of opportunities. We have a chance to put our renewed case, to both the Government and the public – as neither group understands as well as they could – what we do every day to keep New Zealand moving. We also have the opportunity to work alongside officials and politicians to propose opportunities for improved regulatory rules, safety outcomes and to build our workforce capability and supply through the Te ara ki tua Road to Success traineeship programme.

RTF will brief the incoming Minister of Transport on the key industry issues and I’ll report on the content of that briefing in the coming weeks. It will help set our agenda over the coming parliamentary term.     

  • Nick Leggett, CE, Road Transport Forum