Safety campaigner wants ‘killer trucks’ off the road

Plans to allow bigger and heavier trucks on New Zealand roads[1], rather than encouraging the rail and sea freight networks, are flawed and dangerous, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“Trucks make up just 2.5% of the vehicle fleet, yet in 2014 (the latest available statistics), 67 people died and a further 772 were injured in road crashes involving trucks. This was 23% of all deaths and 7% of all reported injuries on our roads. That’s more people than were killed by speeding.”[2]

The number of road deaths involving trucks has nearly doubled since 1980 and has increased every year since larger trucks were allowed in 2010[3]. Yet the government is now proposing even larger trucks. This is madness.”

“The government is predicting that freight across New Zealand's roads is going to increase by 78% in the next 25 years, This, inevitably, will mean even more dead bodies.”

Matthew-Wilson says the government’s plans simply don’t make sense.

“One locomotive can haul many times the load of a big rig truck and trailer, with far less risk to road users.”

“Long haul freight trucks are not only a serious road hazard, but they’re often unnecessary. The government’s own studies show that transporting goods by sea freight and rail is far more efficient than transporting goods by truck[4].”

“Obviously, we can’t do without essential services such as rural stock trucks and milk tankers, but we can do without most of the long-haul freight trucks using public roads.”

“I’m not attacking truck drivers, who are generally highly skilled and courteous to other motorists. I’m attacking the system that effectively pits cars and trucks against each other. Often the truck driver is not at fault, but when a car and a truck collide, size wins.”

“The government’s attempts to justify adding larger trucks to our roads do not stack up, unless you’re one of the trucking companies. It’s shameful that the government allows the trucking industry to run government policy, against the interests of most New Zealanders.”

“We should be moving most long-haul freight onto coastal freighters. If we moved the rest onto rail, and electrified the network, we would drastically reduce the road toll, drastically reduce pollution and reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.”

Release ends.



 1)  Review of the Vehicle Dimensions & Mass (VDAM) Rule. Discussion Document, NZ Government, December 2015, ISBN: 978-0-478-07273-0 (online)


2) According to the New Zealand Transport Agency:

"Excessive speed is a contributing factor in [just] 20% of all fatal and serious injury crashes on New Zealand roads."

NZTA statistics also suggest that speed alone is a factor in just 13% of fatalities. The rest involve dangerous combinations of speed, alcohol and drugs.


3) This statistic is based on the actual numbers of road deaths (see chart below).


 The trucking lobby prefers to quote total truck crashes per 100 million kilometres travelled by trucks, which makes the situation appear more rosy and shows truck accidents rising only slightly since 2010.



However, with the government predicting that freight across New Zealand's roads is going to increase by 78% in the next 25 years, it is difficult not the view the situation without alarm.


4)           In 2000, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) calculated that transporting goods by road used 3.1 million units of energy to move one ton of goods one kilometre. By comparison, moving the same goods by rail used only 0.61 1 million units of energy, even allowing for the energy used when the trucks picked up the goods at the railway station. 

A later (2012) study produced less dramatic results, but confirmed the findings of the earlier report, stating: “[shipping goods by sea freight and rail is] about twice as efficient as the road mode.”

Source:  Freight transport efficiency: a comparative study of coastal shipping, rail and road modes, October 2012, PD Cenek, RJ Kean, IA Kvatch, NJ Jamieson, Opus International Consultants, Central Laboratories, Gracefield, Lower Hutt.