Small Passenger Services reform
The NZ Transport Agency propose various changes to three Rules, to effect the reform to small passenger services intended by the Land Transport Amendment Bill. As with our comments on that Bill, the AA broadly supports the proposed changes but we opposed removing the requirement for taxi operators to provide services 24/7 (in metropolitan cities), and we also opposed the wholesale removal of mandatory interior and exterior signage, although we suggested these could be simplified.
Land Transport Amendment Bill 2016
This Bill primarily makes alcohol interlocks a mandatory sentence for high-BAC and repeat drink-drivers, along with increasing penalties for drivers fleeing from police, and changing regulations for small passenger services to respond to emerging technology and facilitate new business models.
The AA has been advocating for interlocks to be made mandatory for several years as they have reduced reoffending in other countries by 35-90%, but here in NZ only 2% of eligible offenders have received an interlock sentence. Therefore the AA strongly supports many of the proposals in the Bill, although we made a number of recommendations including:
- that the regime be monitored and assessed to detect any loopholes in the exemptions;
- the exemption for people living over 30km from an interlock provider be reconsidered, and extended if possible;
- the effectiveness of the Zero Alcohol Licence be monitored and reviewed;
- the exemption for medical conditions that preclude an interlock be subject to an NZTA ‘fitness to drive’ medical review;
- no exemption for not owning a vehicle; the ‘no car’ exemption is the biggest loophole used to avoid interlocks in overseas schemes;
- no exemption on the grounds of hardship (subject to the details of the subsidy scheme);
- enabling an offender to fit (and pay for) an interlock to a vehicle they do not own (e.g. work vehicle, relative’s vehicle), with the owner’s consent;
- that the exemption for someone who doesn’t hold a driver licence be subject to a mandatory assessment and referral to an appropriate intervention (e.g. addiction treatment or drink-driver programme).
On proposals in the Bill to increase penalties for fleeing drivers, the AA’s submission was broadly supportive but recommended:
- more intensive, evidence-based penalties, instead of a longer licence ban;
- greater use of technology to apprehend fleeing drivers (e.g. GPS tracking, tracking tags that can be deployed onto fleeing vehicles, and forward-facing cameras in police cars), as these have proven effective, and safer, overseas.
We also cautioned about the effectiveness of using driver license disqualification as a penalty, as research by the AA Research Foundation indicates that this type of penalty is less effective.
The AA’s submission also supported changes in the Bill to update regulations for small passenger services. However, we opposed the removal of the existing requirement for ‘taxi service operators’ to provide small passenger services 24 hours per day, 7 days a week in metropolitan cities, as it is essential that passenger hire services are available at all hours for vulnerable people and medical emergencies.
Finally, the AA opposed a proposal in the Bill to amend the definition of ‘moving vehicle offence’ to include variable or traffic lane control signs which is not safety-related (but rather efficiency or demand management-related).
ACC motor vehicle levies 2017-19
During September/October, ACC undertook its annual levy consultation, which from now on covers a two-year period. Proposals included reducing motor vehicle levies by an average 13% (excluding motorcycles), including reducing the ACC levy on petrol from 6.9 cents per litre (cpl) to 6cpl, and improvements to the Vehicle Risk Rating scheme. The AA’s submission supported the reduction in petrol tax, as the proportion of the average levy now collected from petrol tax amounts to 60%, which the AA considers fair, whereas prior to 2015 only a third of the levies came from petrol tax. ACC also sought feedback on whether electric vehicles should pay a lower levy to help incentivise their uptake. The AA opposed this as we consider ACC funding policy should only be driven by safety and not unrelated objectives like environmental emissions.
Omnibus Amendment 2016
This Rule proposes a number of changes to various Rules, including the Road User Rule and Vehicle Lighting Rule. Changes included permitting drivers to encroach on a flush median to pass a cyclist, and extending the time period when bicycles must use lights, both of which the AA supports. We also support proposals in the Vehicle Lighting Rule to allow non-functioning or illegal optional lights to be de-activated rather than removed (as at present), and to exempt vehicles registered before 1990 from the requirement to fit high stop lights. However the AA opposed proposed changes to require all doors to be able to be opened from outside the vehicle, and to permit speed limits to be set for the purposes of controlling vehicle emissions.
Vehicle Dimension & Mass Rule 2016
This Rule proposes a 1-tonne increase to the weight limit of 7-axle truck and trailers (and a 2-tonne increase for 8-axles), but with a 1-tonne reduction in the allowable enforcement tolerance. An increase in maximum width from 2.5m to 2.55m and maximum height from 4.25m to 4.30m is also proposed. The NZAA is not opposed to these changes, however we only support them on the condition that new trucks and trailers are also fitted with side and rear under-run barriers (excluding some types of trucks) as under-run barriers will improve the safety of vulnerable road users.
Driver Licensing Review
The Driver Licensing Review is proposing options to make the driver licence process simpler or easier, including making it possible to renew the drivers licence online. Other proposals simplify processes for driver licences (or endorsements) for heavy vehicles, agricultural vehicles, passenger service providers and driving instructor/driving schools.
The AA supported the ability to renew licences online, but suggested instead the government’s first priority should be to enable online or mobile phone reminder systems of when a driver’s licence is expiring.
Our submission opposed replacing the eyesight screening test with a declaration of eyesight for several reasons, including road safety concerns, imposing greater total costs on employers through WorkSafe requirements, minimal time or cost savings, and strong opposition from 73% of AA Members.
Our submission supported a proposal to introduce a fast-track means for heavy vehicle drivers to progress from Class 2 to Class 5, which would involve driver training with an approved course provider, recorded practice time and strengthened practical tests. We also supported removing the Class 3 (which would merge into Class 5). The AA also supported aligning rules for ‘agricultural’ tractors and other tractors, although we suggested the maximum speed for both should be 30km/h and not 40km/h as proposed.
ETS review phase 1
The Ministry for the Environment is reviewing the Emission Trading Scheme. The scheme requires certain specified industries (including fuel retailers) to acquire and surrender a certificate (NZU) for each tonne of Greenhouse gas they are deemed to have released at the end of each fiscal year. Some industries such as agriculture (half of all emissions) are exempt. As a transitional measure when the scheme was introduced the government only required obligated companies to surrender one NZU for every two tonnes emitted. The first phase of the review asked submitters whether this transitional measure should be abandoned.
The price for carbon in the market at the moment works out at 1.3 cents per litre. Changing the one for two surrender obligation greatly rebalances the market potentially affecting carbon prices. The market at the moment is, however, currently awash in NZUs bought cheaply under Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. This means the price will remain low for a few years whether a one-for-two or one-for-one obligation is used. However the future of prices in the market depends on the Ministry gaining access to other markets. The NZAA therefore accepts a one-for-one surrender so long as this happens.
Review of the Vehicle Dimensions & Mass Rule
The government is seeking feedback on proposals to tweak NZ’s current vehicle dimension and mass limits to improve productivity and improve purchase choices for new trucks and buses. They are proposing to increase the gross axle mass from 44 tonnes to 45 tonnes (but lower the tolerance level from 1500kg to 500kg so essentially status quo), increase large vehicle width from 2.50m to 2.55m and raise maximum height from 4.25m to 4.3m, along with relaxing the permitting regime.
While the NZAA endorsed the gross mass increase, we suggested this should be accompanied by minimum safety features like ESC, AEB, EBD, and we recommended MoT undertake a cost:benefit analysis of mandating such equipment to maximise the safety of the heavy fleet. Similarly, we supported the width increase but recommended vehicles built to the new width should be fitted with under-run barriers, collision detection systems, lane departure warning systems and blind spot monitoring systems in order to mitigate risks to vulnerable road users. The NZAA opposed the height increase until more analysis was undertaken of the number of overhead bridges under 4.3m, and we also did not support the proposal to remove the permitting requirement for 50MAX vehicles.
Small Passenger Services Review
The Ministry of Transport is currently reviewing the Small Passenger Service Vehicles’ regulatory framework to ensure the rules are fit for purpose and flexible enough to accommodate new technologies.
The NZAA wants a small passenger vehicle sector that promotes innovation, competition and utilisation of New Zealand’s existing vehicle fleet. We also want to ensure that high levels of passenger and driver safety are maintained.
Our submission supports a single class of small passenger services where all operators are subject to the same regulations and compete for customers on a level playing field, which should also provide passengers with greater choice and potentially more competitive fares.
The NZAA also wants the P Endorsement process reviewed to remove unnecessary, lengthy and burdensome components which act as a barrier to entry into the sector.