Truckers face tighter rules for road charges

Truckies and heavy-vehicle users will have a tougher time escaping road user charges from August after a new law passed yesterday.

The Road User Charges Bill passed its final reading in Parliament by 113 votes to eight, and will come into force on August 1.

Under the new law, the charges system will change from one based on actual gross weight, as specified by vehicle owners, to one based on maximum permissible on-road weight.

Owners of vehicles weighing more than 3500kg will be charged based on their vehicles' maximum weight - rather than the current system which is based on the actual gross weight of the loads carried.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said provisions in the legislation, including changing the definition of licence weights, removing a time licence system and simplifying the list of exempted vehicles, would reduce compliance costs for businesses and simplify administration processes for industry and government.

The changes would also tackle the evasion of road user charges (RUC), which was estimated to cost $30 million a year.

"Currently, honest payers of RUC are subsidising those who evade payment,'' Mr Brownlee said.

"These legislative changes remove a number of evasion opportunities and encourage timely payment, making the system fairer for all.''

While New Zealand First was the only party to oppose the bill, other parties have expressed some concern about certain aspects of the legislation.

Labour's Annette King had reservations about the arbitrariness of a rule under which operators paid a charge regardless of whether they were carrying a full load or not. She said it would disproportionately affect trucks which carried light loads but whose drivers would be forced to pay charges for their maximum capacity.

The actual charges operators will face have not been set, but National MP Michael Woodhouse said the Ministry of Transport had worked closely with the industry to make sure it was fair.

"A gross weight system will be satisfactory to all but people who carry feathers or Pink Batts regularly in their trucks,'' he said.

He said there may be an issue for some trucks which were never close to their maximum load, but they were at the margins.


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