Comment: Freight sector must have place at speed setting table

By: Nick Leggett, Road Transport CEO, Photography by: Supplied

The RTF is opposing proposed rule changes by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, which removes the agency’s duty to consult the freight sector when setting road speed limits


The Road Transport Forum (RTF) is stunned that Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is proposing a rule change that removes their duty to consult the freight sector when setting road speed limits.

Government must have a short memory, because it’s forgetting the part the road transport industry played keeping the country moving during the major events of recent years—the Kaikoura earthquake, the COVID-19 lockdowns, not to mention severe weather events that have severely challenged our national resilience.

Considering the significant contribution that road freight makes to the economy, the RTF must have a say on what happens on the roads, which are the workplace for those we represent. We are the voice of the industry, and we can’t be locked out of consultation because the Government doesn’t like what we say.

The rule change suggests an independent speed management committee take on responsibility for speed setting, with no opportunity for direct submissions or specific freight industry consultation. We feel that’s inadequate and that the current consultation process should remain.

Ask any truckie about the roads they travel on and all will say the same—they aren’t being maintained and this, rather than speed, is one of the greatest contributors to accidents.

The Government may wrap up its speed-setting agenda in claims of road safety and decarbonisation, but speed setting is a low-cost option when measured against network improvements or safety improvement investments.

Instead of carrying out network and route upgrades, they slap a lower speed limit on a road in the guise of making it safer. The effect on the economy of forcing everyone to travel at slower speeds is totally ignored. It will result in higher costs, due to increased trip times, which will eventually have an impact on the price of consumer goods.

In an economy that’s heavily reliant on just-in-time deliveries, anything that affects this process will have a knock-on effect. Traffic congestion and patchwork road repairs already create huge problems, and I fail to see how reducing speed limits across the board will do anything other than increase the pressure the industry is under to keep New Zealand moving.

Our roading network has not been maintained to the standard road users deserve, and instead of investing money in bringing it up to scratch, the Government has decided instead to cancel the much-needed roading maintenance and upgrade projects.

Despite the familiar echo from nostalgists to put everything on rail, the fact is trucks account for 93% of freight in New Zealand and that volume is only going to increase as our economy grows.

The wider freight industry is a significant contributor to our economy and the National Land Transport Fund. It’s, therefore, hardly unreasonable to expect that we, along with other vehicle-related road user groups, should have a seat at the speed-setting table.

Also, don’t forget, The Road Ahead—Transporting New Zealand Conference 2021 is fast approaching, and registrations are open now. If you book by 31 July 2021, you can take advantage of the early bird registration discount.

To register and for more information about the conference, visit the RTF’s dedicated website at I also call on industry members to consider nominating their peers for the New Zealand Road Transport Industry Awards.

There are four awards available: the VTNZ Supreme Contribution to the Road Transport Industry Award, the EROAD Outstanding Contribution to Health and Safety, Teletrac Navman Outstanding Contribution by a Woman in the Road Transport Industry, and the EROAD Young Driver of the Year. The Castrol Truck Driver Hero Award will also be presented.

Entry guidelines and nomination forms are available for download from the RTF website. 

Find new and used trucks for sale in NZ 

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Deals on Wheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook