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Regulation only works with proper enforcement

Regulation only works with proper enforcement

Road Transport Forum News

 March 2019    RTF News

The Ministry of Transport's review of the New Zealand Transport Agency's performance of its regulatory functions and its compliance failings is a timely reminder that regulation is an absolutely pointless exercise without the appropriate resources dedicated to enforcement.

The whole integrity of the road transport system – not just the rules around heavy vehicles – relies on having a regulator that is focused on making sure that vehicles, their assessors, and vehicle operators are compliant.

Otherwise, it's like having a game of rugby without the referee. Sure, some of the obvious infringements will still get picked up by the touch judge, but players will quickly realise that they can get away with breaking the rules and will therefore gain an unfair advantage by standing offside, going off their feet at the ruck and illegally screwing the scrum.

Understandably, there is significant concern from the general public that a substantial number of vehicles that they've been sharing the road with are not safe or fit for purpose.

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The Ministry of Transport's review of the New Zealand Transport Agency's performance of its regulatory functions and its compliance failings is a timely reminder that regulation is an absolutely pointless exercise without the appropriate resources dedicated to enforcement.
The whole integrity of the road transport system – not just the rules around heavy vehicles – relies on having a regulator that is focused on making sure that vehicles, their assessors, and vehicle operators are compliant.
Otherwise, it's like having a game of rugby without the referee. Sure, some of the obvious infringements will still get picked up by the touch judge, but players will quickly realise that they can get away with breaking the rules and will therefore gain an unfair advantage by standing offside, going off their feet at the ruck and illegally screwing the scrum.
Understandably, there is significant concern from the general public that a substantial number of vehicles that they've been sharing the road with are not safe or fit for purpose.
The media focus on heavy vehicle non-compliance has served to further undermine public confidence in trucks and the overall acceptance of the critical role that road transport plays in the economy.
The Road Transport Forum is extremely disappointed with the situation that road transport operators now find themselves in, especially as we've been cautioning NZTA about its lack of regulatory oversight for many years. It's fair to say then that, from our perspective, this review is not before time.
The fact is that if everyone is playing by the same set of rules – and those rules are fairly enforced – then every operator gets the opportunity to succeed in what is a very competitive industry.
Unfortunately, like every industry, there is a small minority of ratbags who aren't bothered too much with the rules and will take any opportunity possible to break them and get a leg-up on their opposition.
These are the people who have benefitted from NZTA dropping the ball on compliance – and it's the rest of the industry that suffers because of it.
RTF and our associations can only adopt a position of zero tolerance to cheating the rules. We have been warning NZTA for a number of years that its education-first policy on matters of regulatory vehicle compliance was not working and that the stripping back of its technical expertise was leading to major gaps in the compliance regime.
Inevitably the overall result of the review will be a major swing towards a far stricter enforcement approach. No matter what specific recommendations come out of it, it's likely that road transport businesses will need to adjust to significant changes.
Naturally, RTF's concern is that this will be an over-correction that unfairly affects the majority of road transport businesses that remain compliant and work within the rules. Excessive compliance processes that have a major impact on doing business are a real risk to the industry and that's something that the Forum will do its best to remind government of.
It's also worth stating that any costs associated with these regulatory changes must be passed on through higher freight rates. It is just not practical for operators to try to soak up the extra cost of added compliance.
We will therefore be keeping a careful eye on what the specific recommendations are and what NZTA looks to do in response. We have been told that the findings of the review will be released at the end of this month.
NZTA has also recently announced another review that is to sit alongside that undertaken by the Ministry of Transport – looking at the appropriateness of the current Operator Rating System (ORS). This review is scheduled to begin by the end of this month.
Operators will know that the ORS hasn't been fit for purpose for a long time and leads to some pretty skewed results. NZTA is aware of these concerns and is keen to amend the system to address the problems within it.
We support the ORS review, but again we caution the Agency against applying an overly legalistic approach. Any changes need to be workable and allow businesses to comply and keep their vehicles on the road. Possible adjustments to the kind of compliance data required and also a reworking of the weighting criteria would be worthwhile proposals and things that should be welcomed by operators.
RTF looks forward to discussing these proposals with NZTA as the year goes on.
Any association members who wish to have their say on any of these reviews are welcome to contact RTF and we will make sure their concerns are included in our submissions.


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