Comment: Regulatory review of NZTA necessary

By: Nick Leggett, Road transport CEO


The Government has announced that the Ministry of Transport is to conduct a review into NZTA’s performance of their regulatory functions

The review comes on the back of a more limited review into road safety compliance by law firm Meredith Connell. It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s now a veritable tsunami of issues that have emerged over the last year or so regarding NZTA’s regulatory and compliance oversight.

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The situation is complicated and has sparked a great deal of concern from the mainstream media and general public. It’s apparent to me that all sides will need clear heads as we negotiate our way through the different challenges that present themselves.

The Road Transport Forum has been warning NZTA about the lack of application of the regulations for a number of years, so in a sense, we’re positive about this review.

We would be very concerned at the prospect of an over-correction that impacts on the vast majority of road transport businesses who are compliant and who always work within the rules.

Excessive or new processes that don’t serve public or worker safety but cost more to implement or take more time to administer are a risk from the review and its findings and recommendations. We’ll be keeping a careful eye on ensuring that the agency doesn’t use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. 

We all know that the vast majority of road transport operators are highly professional, law-abiding, and take compliance seriously. That doesn’t mean that occasionally they don’t get it wrong because, let’s be honest, the regulatory environment our industry operates in is a complex one.

However, there’s a small minority of ‘bottom feeders’ in the industry who are serial offenders and who aren’t bothered too much with compliance.

It has become apparent that NZTA will shift from their ‘education-first’ policy on matters of regulatory vehicle compliance to a stricter enforcement approach. This will undoubtedly take up time and money of the road transport industry as businesses adjust to changes.

It’s in everyone’s interests that we get clarity and resolution as soon as possible, so operators know what is fairly expected of them by the regulator. It’s never acceptable to consistently cheat the rules, either through providing dodgy vehicle safety inspections and certifications or intentionally running non-compliant equipment.

It only serves to endanger the lives of drivers and other road users and undermine public confidence in our industry and wider roading network. The industry can only adopt a position of zero tolerance to cheating the rules.  

Road transport is an incredibly competitive industry with tight margins. It’s pretty galling to a compliant operator to know that his or her competitor down the road is breaking the rules to undercut the market and is getting away with it. It’s not only the general public that demands NZTA undertake its compliance role diligently but it’s also those whose livelihoods are at stake. 

This issue is an important example in a wider principle where we all can ensure that a balance is struck between regulatory compliance and regulatory support. This can be difficult for agencies that fulfil a regulatory function but who also be focussed on things such as working to support the sectors they are legislatively bound to regulate.

The forum is well aware of its role in this instance to ensure, on behalf of the association members, that equilibrium is maintained between the two. Genuine and required quality and compliance must go hand in hand with the ability of our industry to grow and increase productivity. 

The Ministry of Transport review into NZTA is due to be completed by the end of March 2019. RTF looks forward to its findings.

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