Comment: Driver licensing changes on the way

By: Nick Leggett, Road Transport CEO


The driver licensing system will be overhauled within this financial year

When we chose the ‘Central Focus’ theme for this year’s Road Transport Forum Conference, we had in mind to address some of those issues that are particularly critical to our industry. Undeniably one of those issues is the driver licensing system.

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Transport Minister Phil Twyford with Nick at the RTF Conference

As all operators know, the current driver licensing system does not serve our industry well. It is overly complex, arduous, and by the time someone has gone through all the various steps to gain a Class 5 licence, it’s extremely expensive.

The good news is that when it comes to driver licensing, this Government may be finally starting to walk the talk. At Conference, both Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and Ministry of Transport head Peter Mersi confirmed that the driver licensing system will be overhauled within this financial year.

Changes will be made, including enabling online driver licensing transactions, increasing the power of NZTA to manage approved course providers, and, importantly, to streamline the progression between heavy vehicle licence classes.

This is obviously good news for our industry. The devil, of course, will be in the detail and we wait to see what it is. It’s unlikely that the industry will get everything we want, but a move to streamline the system must at this stage be seen as a welcome announcement
Another Government announcement that was welcomed at Conference was their intention to address the issue of unfair commercial practices.

Specific provisions were announced to extend protections against unfair contract terms in standard form consumer contracts to also apply to business contracts with a value below $250,000. This is what RTF has been lobbying Government for nearly three years to do, so we are really pleased.

Without a doubt, this will help protect smaller transport companies that have been subject to unfair contract terms in the past, including being forced to accept 60- to 90-day payment terms.

Where we have some reservations is the Government’s intention to prohibit ‘unconscionable conduct’. RTF’s concerns are whether this will be effective for smaller businesses, without the legal resources to pursue it. However, we will wait to see the legislation early next year before commenting in detail on this.

Finally, I have a request for your help. RTF has once again commissioned the University of Waikato’s NZ Institute for Business Research to carry out the Road Transport Operator Cost Comparison Survey. The survey is absolutely critical to the continuation of the RTF Road Transport Cost Index.

However, the Survey relies on the participation of operators to make it work and this is where your industry needs you. Without member participation, the credibility of the Cost Index become questionable and ultimately, if there are insufficient viable responses to the survey, the index will be withdrawn. The aim is to get at least 200 operators to participate.
Transport operators can register for the online survey on at management.ac.nz/register/rtfnz.

Access to the survey questionnaire closes around mid-October but may be extended to give operators more time if necessary. This is a critical tool for the industry to determine and justify minimum freight rates. This is evidenced by the number of companies that use the index for this purpose. If you’re one of those companies, we would strongly encourage you to participate in the Survey.

All information supplied is on a strictly confidential basis to a professional independent survey team.

Participating operators will receive their individual reports on an exclusive basis with the more widely available sector and regional reports containing only aggregated data, which is useful for benchmarking purposes. 

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