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Harry Wilson on moving more freight on few trucks

Regional Director Harry Wilson on moving more freight on few trucks

The Transport Agency is working hard to make New Zealand’s freight transport system both safer and more efficient. Improving safety, while reducing the cost of doing business, will make New Zealand a better place to live and work. Reducing the cost of moving freight will help improve the competitiveness of our exports, reduce the costs of the goods we buy, and grow our economy.

Alongside the challenge of improving the current freight transport system, we also need to ensure it will have the capacity to handle New Zealand’s growing freight task. The amount of freight moved in our country is growing, and with it the number of truck trips.  Over the last few years, for example, the volume of imports and exports moving to and from our sea ports has jumped from 42 million tonnes in 2008/09 to 55 million tonnes in 2012/13. All of these goods, at some point, needed to be moved by road - with rail and coastal shipping also providing important components of this freight’s overall journey.

We’re working on several different fronts to improve the safety and efficiency of our freight system. Over the coming year we will be working with stakeholders to complete our freight plans for the Upper North Island, Central New Zealand and South Island. These plans will set out a shared view, across industry and government, about the main challenges and opportunities we are facing along with possible solutions. We also have a number of initiatives underway to improve the safety of freight movements, such as the development of the Operator Rating System and our work on safe speeds.

One of the Transport Agency’s key priorities is to move more freight with fewer truck trips. That can be achieved, in part, through the uptake of high productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs). For the next three years we are focusing on the uptake of HPMVs because there is clear evidence that using these vehicles will provide significant long-term safety and productivity benefits. Our analysis and what we have heard from industry has also shown that this lift in performance can be achieved relatively quickly and with relatively modest investment in infrastructure and new vehicles.  We know that the potential freight productivity gains of HPMVs would see a 20 percent decrease in truck trips using over-mass permits, a 14 percent decrease in trips for over-dimensioned permits and around 10 percent for 50MAX combinations.

This means HPMVs will undertake 10-20 percent less travel to move the same amount of freight as standard trucks.  This reduction in travel offers significant commercial benefits, like reduced vehicle operating costs, driver hours and fuel. HPMVs also tend to be newer, more fuel efficient and quieter than the trucks they are replacing and reduce carbon emissions for each tonne of freight moved.

There are also significant safety benefits for everyone who uses the road. Fewer truck trips reduces the risk of heavy vehicle crashes, as does the trend to bring newer, safer truck combinations onto our roads. The approach to reducing the number of truck trips is part of the Transport Agency’s wider work with our partners on implementing Safer Journeys, the Government's strategy to guide improvements in road safety. This includes work on safer speeds, better roads and roadsides, and smarter enforcement of road rules for trucks. As a result of this the number of truck crashes involving death and serious injuries are declining, even though the volume of freight being moved by trucks overall is increasing. In saying that the Transport Agency is looking at how we can further improve the safety of road freight and recognise that there is more work to be done.

Moving more freight more safely and more efficiently with fewer trucks will benefit us all – road transport operators, other road users, rate-payers, communities, consumers and our exporters.

Harry Wilson

NZ Transport Agency Freight Portfolio Director


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