Petition to postpone road user charge increase gets 8,000 signatures in first 24 hours

For National Road Carriers

A National Road Carriers Association petition to postpone the Government’s planned 5.3% increase in road user charges (RUC) has gained more than 8,000 signatures in its first 24 hours.

National Road Carriers Association (NRC) CEO David Aitken says the planned RUC, due to take effect from 1 July, is a kick in the guts to the trucking industry that kept the country moving during lockdown and must be postponed.

“It is unacceptable. Throughout the lockdown the road freight industry kept the country moving delivering essential supplies including medicine and food.”

Mr Aitken said transport operators were seriously aggrieved by the planned RUC increase. “The petition is obviously gaining huge momentum in the road transport industry. Facebook is going off with 525 comments, 600 likes and 2,300 shares since the petition was published on Tuesday 9 June.

“From a public perspective this increase will affect everyone because the cost of moving freight must ultimately be built into the price of goods.”

The petition requests that the House of Representatives urge the Government to postpone the 2020 Road User Charge (RUC) increase due to financial hardship experienced by the heavy transport sector during the COVID-19 lockdown despite being an essential service keeping the supply chain functioning.

The petition states: “We believe businesses in NZ who have survived want to get back to full operation, recover their losses, and keep staff employed, and that a 5.3% RUC increase at this time will mean costs being absorbed or passed on to the consumer which will result in price increases, something New Zealanders cannot afford in the current climate. The country is trying to get back on its feet and increasing a tax on the industry that keeps it moving is unfair and feels like a punishment to an essential service.”

The petition can be found on the New Zealand Parliament website

Mr Aitken said social media activity among the road freight community had been bubbling for weeks. “It is our responsibility to make sure the Government hears the industry’s concerns.

“Freight transport runs on low margins at the best of times and most trucking companies operating during lockdown ran at zero or negative margins, due to limited goods and volumes that could be moved. The industry also put their own health and safety on the line to deliver these goods. Transport operators worked through all pandemic alert levels, often at a cost to them, their families and their companies.”

Mr Aitken said the road transport industry was very disappointed by a perceived lack of recognition of the role it played during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“This Government appears to want to punish the trucking industry when freight companies are struggling by increasing the RUC to pay for rail, cycleways and public transport – which are not capable of delivering essential supplies to stores.” 

Mr Aitken said the road transport industry had witnessed the Government “rewarding” many other sectors such as arts and music, racing, and tourism with big payouts.  “This is fine, but we see an essential service such as road transport instead being punished for its efforts.  If it wasn’t for road freight none of these other sectors would be possible, particularly racing and tourism.”

He said transport sees itself as an easy target for Governments to pass taxes onto, like the RUC. He said the industry is seen as a cash cow and it has had enough. 

He said the industry was willing to continue paying RUC as it is now, but this needs to go into the currently badly maintained roading networks and build new infrastructure that allows the efficient flow of freight. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how essential road freight is, as did the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.”

Mr Aitken said Road Transport Forum CEO Nick Leggett has pointed out that the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) was below budget, roading repairs have not kept pace with the growth of revenue generated from heavy vehicles, and an economic downturn will affect load sizes rather than distance travelled.

The Road Transport Forum (RTF) is lobbying the Government to postpone the planned RUC increase due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the downturn most transport operators will experience due to this.

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