NZTA slammed over sudden changes to trucking regulations

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Words: Matthew Hansen
29 May 2021

The Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency has come under fresh scrutiny from truckies and operators around the country following a set of changes made to local regulations around truck brakes.

On April 1 Waka Kotahi enacted new legislation around brakes, prompting operators to have any 3.5-tonne-or-heavier trucks be re-certified if they had been modified.

In a perplexing move, adding a tow-bar to these trucks was deemed a modification that would qualify a re-certification to take place. Other changes that would trigger the need for re-certification were trucks with shortened wheelbases.

According to an RNZ report, the process has implicated not only a long list of trucks that operators already believe are safe, but it’s also implicated some selected brand new trucks.

“These vehicles are designed to tow trailers. They arrive here and the agency says ‘oh well, prove it’, get somebody to certify it. It's just ridiculous,” Southpac Trucks chief executive Maarten Durent told RNZ.

“But it just becomes another excuse to red sticker a truck, to block it, to create a delay, more costs ... recertifying something that's already certified [overseas] and built to a standard.”

Some estimate that the change will cost the industry $36million. Motor Industry Association chief executive David Crawford says around 20,000 trucks around the country will face an extra cost of $1800 over the action.

“It's had a cost impact already. There is some pressure on them to improve the performance of heavy vehicles on the road. There have been a number of accidents where brakes have been called into question,” Crawford told RNZ.

Waka Kotahi hasn’t publicly admitted fault over the unpopular rule change, telling RNZ in a statement that it received no feedback during its two-week consultation period. Current remembers things differently, telling RNZ that he received no heads-up about the changes at all prior to them being enacted.

Away from the press, however, Waka Kotahi has admitted partial blame. In a statement it issued to certifiers, it said it had “received substantial feedback that the [April 1] amendment contradicted previous advice and that a retrospective application would cause difficulties,” adding “we believe industry raises a fair point.

Brake failures in New Zealand, particularly among the trucking community, have been topical of late. Earlier this month the New Zealand Police confirmed they would be rolling out thermal imaging technology designed to spot vehicles with faulty brakes in the hopes of preventing failures and accidents.

“By investing in new technology that helps identify possible brake failures we can prevent potential harm being caused,” said Superintendent Steve Greally, director of road policing earlier this month.

“We have been working with Waka Kotahi to ensure the MRBTs [mobile roller brake testers] being rolled out aligns with the fixed inground roller brake machines being installed in CVSC, enabling the same high-test standard and data processing.”

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