Speeches

Road Transport Forum 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015 - 14:28
Transport

Good afternoon and thank you for having me here - it is great to have the opportunity to speak to you today, my first such opportunity as Transport Minister.

I want to talk to you about three things:

  • Our priorities and investment as a country in transport infrastructure
  • Demand management and road pricing
  • High Productivity Motor Vehicles

Investment in transport infrastructure

On 1 July the new Government Policy Statement on land transport (GPS 2015) and the new National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) came into effect.

At $13.9 billion over three years, this represents the largest investment in land transport – including roads, public transport, cycling and road safety promotion – in New Zealand’s history.

The Government’s key priorities for this investment are economic growth and productivity, road safety, and value for money. I know you share these same priorities.

Economic growth and productivity

The Government will continue supporting improvements that will bring benefits for national economic growth and productivity.

The GPS and NLTP will continue to fund the Roads of National Significance, deliver the Accelerated Regional Roading Programme, and help bring forward $800 million of projects on Auckland’s Northern Motorway, Southern Motorway and State Highway 20A to the Auckland Airport.

These projects will increase the capacity of the road network and improve journey time reliability. They will also improve safety, and help connect our centres of primary production to urban centres, local markets and exporting ports or airports.

Road safety

Every year, too many New Zealanders are killed and many more are seriously injured in crashes.

While good progress has been made in reducing road fatalities and serious injuries, we have seen a disappointing increase in the road toll since 2013.  This has reinforced the Government’s determination to continue our efforts.

Under the ‘safe system’ approach we are focusing on making the whole road system – vehicles, speeds, road users, roads and roadsides – safer. We also have to continue to remind people that road safety is everyone’s responsibility.

The Safer Journeys partners have recently begun developing the third Safer Journeys Action Plan, and I look forward to seeing input from your sector.

Value for money

It is important to ensure that we invest in the right infrastructure and services in the right place, at the right time and for the right cost.

This means ensuring our existing infrastructure assets are well utilised, and that new investments deliver real results for New Zealand.

Demand management and road pricing

Of course, we already use demand management in transport today - and have for a long time - whether in traffic management or RUC, as but two examples. Indeed, there are a wide range of price and non-price, and technological and non-technological demand management tools.

When we think about the Government’s priorities in transport, better demand management has the possibility to deliver better outcomes in all three; economic growth and productivity, safety, and value for money.

Last week in this room Hon Bill English released the Government’s 30 year New Zealand Infrastructure Plan. It makes clear that the Government is considering a demand management and road pricing project, specifically the feasibility and design of a heavy vehicle trial in 2015/16.

I want to tell you more about this work that’s in its early stages. Preliminary investigation indicates that for heavy vehicles the issues aren’t necessarily congestion, but others, such as safety, noise, and wear and tear.

When thinking about a trial, the focus has been around key ports where heavy vehicles are a relatively high proportion of traffic and, in particular, the routes into Auckland and the Port of Tauranga.

Could location-specific charging improve safety, noise, and wear and tear? Be clear, this would not be about gathering more RUC from heavy vehicles. It would be about recognising the real cost of heavy vehicles on some roads and the incentives at play on heavy vehicle operators to minimise their costs. A differential RUC could ensure better safety, less noise, and less wear and tear on some roads and lower RUC on other routes.

Let me give you an example. State highway 2 between Auckland and Tauranga takes heavy vehicles through a number of small towns where issues of safety, noise, and wear and tear are likely to be higher than the alternative route through the Waikato - which heavy vehicles currently appear to be under-utilising.

As I say, it is early days, but could changes here be better for everyone? It is worth exploring these matters because using our existing infrastructure better through better demand management and pricing could mean more economic growth and productivity, better safety and value for money (our shared priorities).

A trial for routes somewhere in our “Golden triangle” would help us understand what might or might not be possible and what the impact might be even beyond heavy vehicles.

I would like to discuss these matters more with your associations.

HPMV

In turning to talk about high productivity motor vehicles it is worth noting at the outset what a terrific form of demand management changes to allow heavier and thus fewer, more productive heavy vehicles has been - and will continue to be - as we seek to do more.

Amendments to the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule (VDAM) in 2010 have allowed HPMVs to carry weights above the usual 44 tonne maximum limit for a truck and trailer combination. This enables the same amount of freight to be transported with up to 20 percent fewer truck movements, providing benefits for greenhouse gas emissions, productivity and road safety.

Government has also put its money where its mouth is, investing to improve roads so they are HPMV enabled. About $32 million has gone into upgrading roads to cater for HPMVs.

HPMVs now make up around a quarter of all heavy road freight travel, with the increased capacity avoiding the need for additional vehicles to travel around 40-60 million kilometres in the past year.

The Government is committed to ongoing refinement of the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule.  The next phase of this project will look at a range of possible improvements – many of which have been raised by industry.

I expect the Ministry of Transport and NZ Transport Agency to work with you on ensuring that future amendments help enable greater productivity, safety and efficiency.

The travel avoided by switching to HPMVs has saved your industry up to $120 million over the last financial year.  That is an excellent example of what we can achieve when better regulation and investment.

Technology

I am going to resist the urge to talk to you at length about technology and transport because I don’t want to steal Martin Matthew’s thunder but let me make just a couple of remarks.

Firstly, I believe technological innovation will be transformative for you and the entire transport sector in a quicker time period than many might think.

You get this more than most. Your industry is already a technological leader. In addition to your uptake of HPMVs, you are at the global forefront of implementing fleet management systems, global positioning technology, and other telematics.

Road User Charges – and particularly ERUC – is a system that generates interest around the world.

Secondly, can I say that the point of technological advancement isn’t to be George Jetson for the sake of it. It is to boost growth and productivity, and safety, things that are, as I have said, this Government and your sector’s shared priorities.

What then is next?

Safety technologies such as lane departure warning systems are becoming widely available, and as a broader range of vehicles are able to autonomously perform more of the driving task, the opportunities for human error will be reduced.

We may also see vehicles that refuse to start if they exceed permitted weight limits, or which alert the driver if they are dangerously fatigued.

More broadly, I think the phenomena we are seeing in transport generally will also come to the heavy vehicle fleet. I have just mentioned the movement to autonomous performance – and note in addition what I have read in the latest Truck and Driver magazine; that Daimler is planning to begin testing self-driving trucks in Europe as early as this year.

Regarding electric vehicles, recently I was in the US where I met with Kiwi, Ian Wright, a founder of tesla. He has moved away from light vehicles and his company Wrightspeed is now very much focused on the heavy fleet and bringing EV technology to it.

Thank you for having me. Enjoy the rest of your conference.