22 Mar 2022

Timing stings for commercial sector as NZTA reviews fees

10:34 am on 22 March 2022

Waka Kotahi says private motorists have been subsidising the commercial sector for too long and it plans to even the playing field by upping operators' fees at the end of next year.

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Waka Kotahi plans to raise an extra $79 million each year under the changes. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Transport Agency says its regulatory arm is underfunded and currently propped up by government loans because trucking, bus and taxi firms have not been paying their fair share.

It plans to raise an extra $79 million each year under the changes, which would come into effect late 2023 and while commercial operators agree the fees need to change, the timing stings.

Bus and Coach Association chief executive Ben McFadgen agreed with the proposals, but said the idea of more charges on a sector that had been pummelled over the last two years, hurt.

"Operators simply don't have any money in their coffers ... so that's going to hit them quite hard.

"They've already experienced some cost increases over their certificates of fitness by the certifiers putting the prices up and now the NZTA."

Transport service license charges for small operators like taxis and larger one like trucks and buses would increase 55 percent to $85 each time the vehicle's registration was renewed - usually annually.

However, those deemed more likely to take up Waka Kotahi's time, such as operators carrying dangerous goods, or rental car operators would see an 87 percent rise from $55 to $102.

Under the changes, costs for vehicle certifiers and providers of electronic logbooks would also go up, something trucking companies RNZ spoke to last night said would definitely be passed back to the companies and in turn, consumers.

NZTA estimated the average household would spend no more than $43.80 per year on the extra costs passed on by industry, and picked the overall increase to the industry would be about 0.2 percent of its annuals costs.

The head of Transporting New Zealand which represents the road freight industry, Nick Leggett, agreed the funding structure needed to be reviewed but was not sure the trucking industry had been taking a bigger slice of the pie than it was entitled too.

"I'm interested to see some of the analysis around how the judgement has been made about where the private versus public interest in cost recovery has been made because often with these things, it's a decision that's not really rooted in any evidence."

"What we don't want to see is there commercial sector funding additional regulatory costs that aren't improving safety and that aren't ensuring that the sector's performing better in terms of its regulatory compliance."

Under the proposals a one-year endorsement for carrying passengers would increase from $73 to $205, making it the same price as getting a five-year endorsement.

However, Taxi Federation executive director Warren Quirke was worried about the unintended consequences.

"When they have those endorsements checked the police go through and they have a look at any traffic infringements and so without that happening now for five years, because most people will shift to the five years, you might have drivers out there with mounting driver concerns."

The proposals will be open for consultation for eight weeks and will require ministerial sign-off.

They are also conditional on just over $30m each year being funnelled away from its land transport fund into regulation. Without this extra funding, all of the proposed fee increases would be even higher to make up the difference.

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