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Train 'train drivers' not 'truckies'!

Train 'train drivers' not 'truckies'!

The answer to any national shortage of truck drivers is not to train more truckies but to move freight off the road and back onto the rail track, Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald said today.

"What we really need is more trains and more train drivers. Every freight train carries the load of several trucks, and every extra train driver helps address the reported truckie shortage," he said.

Mr Donald is responding to calls from the Road Transport Forum, the Forest Owners Association and the Log Transport Safety Council to urgently train more truckies and get them onto the roads shifting freight.

"This is a short-sighted response to a nationwide problem, that affects not only freight movers, commerce, industry and agriculture; but also the taxpayer, road users, holidaymakers, overseas visitors and the environment," Mr Donald said.

"We need to take a broader view, and accept that the only sustainable answer is to get freight off articulated, road-hogging, diesel-burning juggernauts and onto energy-efficient, cost-effective rail.

"The first step is obviously for the Government to urgently negotiate the return of the national rail track to public ownership, and to allow different service providers to efficiently run on the tracks," Mr Donald said.

"The Government must upgrade the rail track, and ensure a level playing field - including by making road users pay the full costs of their road usage.

"New Zealand's transport strategy has for decades focused far too much on road-building and meeting the needs of bigger, wider and longer trucks; when what we should be doing is building up our rail network," Mr Donald said.

"Not only will the economy and the environment improve, but we will also notice significant improvements in overall transport costs, road safety, community development and public health," Mr Donald said.

The Road Transport Forum, Forest Owners Association and Log Transport Safety Council was reported today as saying that New Zealand was already short of about 1250 road transport drivers, with a shortage of up to 4000 expected by the year 2005.

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