National’s pledge to fix roads won’t work

The New Zealand National Party’s $500 million pledge to fix potholes does not address the major cause of our damaged roads, says the car review website editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“Excluding events such as storm damage, about 80% of road damage is caused by trucks. Two thirds of the cost of building new highways goes to making them strong enough for trucks.  Yet, the trucking industry pays less than a quarter of these costs.”

“National claims to be economically sensible, and nothing could be more sensible than forcing the trucking industry pay its fair share of the costs of our roads. But National simply blames the government for the state of our roads, while conveniently ignoring the real cause.”

Matthew-Wilson is scathing about the influence the trucking industry has over politicians.

“The trucking industry basically owns the transport policies of both major political parties. That's why the clean, safe, common sense option of using trains and sea freight to carry a large percentage of our passengers and freight barely gets mentioned.”

“Truck drivers are not the enemy here. The enemy is a cosy historical arrangement between the trucking industry and the government that allows the trucking companies to grow rich at the taxpayers’ expense.”

“Worse, while the trucking companies get rich, the railways struggle and major road safety improvements don’t happen.”

Matthew-Wilson says truck Road User Charges should be gradually increased until they cover the full truck-related costs.

Matthew-Wilson wants these increased charges to be spent on road safety improvements and rail.

Nearly one quarter of the road toll involves trucks. In 1980, accidents involving trucks made up 12% of the road toll. In 2021, accidents involving trucks made up nearly 25% of the road toll. That’s one of the major reasons our road toll is still high.”

The government’s own studies show that rail freight is at least twice as efficient as road freight. Moving freight by sea is also many times more efficient than trucks. The only reason that trucking companies prosper is because they don’t pay the true costs of the roads they travel down.”

“We need milk tankers and delivery trucks. We don’t need most of the longhaul truck-and-trailer units that roar down our state highways.”

“Above all, we need to stop acting as if damaged roads were the result of poor maintenance or simply bad luck. Our roads are primarily damaged by trucks. Until the trucking industry pays its fair share, the problem will not get better, but worse.”