The RUC proposals: fixing the flaws

Simplifying the RUC structure is a good idea. The less complicated a system is the easier compliance should be. But the proposed new RUC regime has gone too far and the consequence is that an unacceptable 30 to 35 percent of trucks and trailers over four tonnes would be significantly disadvantaged unless major modifications are made. Just as concerning are the added costs imposed on two of the most popular types of vehicle combinations, eight – axle truck and trailer units anci eight and nine – axle B – trains, one of the safest configurations compared to double – articulated connected truck trailers.

The Forum has proposed a number of significant changes to the regime proposed by the Ministry of Transport. Firstly the core RUC system should be retained with additional new classifications added where warranted. This helps maintain the relationship of vehicles by axle configuration to road consumption or pavement wear, which is one of the principles underpinning the RUC system.

Then a multi – tier approach to the charging system should be adopted with two, three or four bands per core RUC vehicle type. This solution would help resolve a number of problems. It attempts to manage the potential introduction of unsafe vehicles and vehicle combinations, and it provides for maintaining the present cost relativity between current vehicle types and preserves the principle at the core of the axle weight – distance tax model that more axles mean less cost.

Adopting this solution would recognise that payload utilisation and equipment efficiency are not the only factors determining buying decisions for lower mass vehicles. The submissions made to the Forum suggest that longevity and reliability are equally important considerations for many operators, particularly those in urban and interurban freight. While this approach may not fulfil the Governmentefficiency target, it is probably better for many operators in terms of reduced investment risk and improved residual resale values.

Multiple bands would also help remove the evident anomalies in some of the proposed vehicle combination charges.

The RUC proposals: fixing the flawsIgnoring all vehicles four tonnes and under, these band widths could cover weight groups of five to six tonnes at the upper threshold, six tonnes at the middle level and any balance down to the lowest level beneath that. The final distribution would be expected to follow historical RUC purchasing patterns as closely as possible to ensure greater equality in charges for any band width than the Ministryproposed regime provides.

The same principles applied to trailers would ease the high cost associated with a Type 33 trailer in a B – train combination. Taking the upper band to 22 tonnes would accommodate the Type 33 trailers currently used for import – export container transport.

This multi – band approach would also assist in reducing the considerable cost increases operators who habitually “cube out”would face under the proposed regime. However the Forum has proposed another change to help these operators. We have suggested introducing a RUC GVM”, which would enable operators to select an operating mass lower that the manufacturerGVM or the VDAM mass. This would have to be approved by the RUC controller.

A significant number of operators have told the Forum that for safety reasons they will use a vehicle which doesnoptimise its full payload capacity. Their view is that the Static Roll Threshold test cantake into account the effect road gradients, cross falls and other factors such as cross winds can have on a vehicleon – road behaviour. They believe that greater unsprung mass, or number of wheels on the ground, improves control and mitigates adverse handling responses. Ita common opinion among car carriers and other similar out”freight haulers where the load characteristics are likely to be close to the maximum vehicle height but of low density.

A RUC GVM”would assist these operators but to help prevent frequent switching between various RUC weight typThe RUC proposals: fixing the flaws. Simplifying the RUC structure is a good idea. The less complicated a system is the easier compliance should be. But the proposed new RUC regime has gone too far and the consequence is that an unacceptable 30 to 35 percent of trucks and trailers over four tonnes would be significantly disadvantaged unless major modifications are made. Just as concerning are the added costs imposed on two of the most popular types of vehicle combinations, eight – axle truck and trailer units anci eight and nine – axle B – trains, one of the safest configurations compared to double – articulated connected truck trailers.

The Forum has proposed a number of significant changes to the regime proposed by the Ministry of Transport. Firstly the core RUC system should be retained with additional new classifications added where warranted. This helps maintain the relationship of vehicles by axle configuration to road consumption or pavement wear, which is one of the principles underpinning the RUC system.

The RUC proposals: fixing the flawsThen a multi – tier approach to the charging system should be adopted with two, three or four bands per core RUC vehicle type. This solution would help resolve a number of problems. It attempts to manage the potential introduction of unsafe vehicles and vehicle combinations, and it provides for maintaining the present cost relativity between current vehicle types and preserves the principle at the core of the axle weight – distance tax model that more axles mean less cost.

Adopting this solution would recognise that payload utilisation and equipment efficiency are not the only factors determining buying decisions for lower mass vehicles. The submissions made to the Forum suggest that longevity and reliability are equally important considerations for many operators, particularly those in urban and interurban freight. While this approach may not fulfil the Governmentefficiency target, it is probably better for many operators in terms of reduced investment risk and improved residual resale values.

Multiple bands would also help remove the evident anomalies in some of the proposed vehicle combination charges.

Ignoring all vehicles four tonnes and under, these band widths could cover weight groups of five to six tonnes at the upper threshold, six tonnes at the middle level and any balance down to the lowest level beneath that. The final distribution would be expected to follow historical RUC purchasing patterns as closely as possible to ensure greater equality in charges for any band width than the Ministryproposed regime provides.

The same principles applied to trailers would ease the high cost associated with a Type 33 trailer in a B – train combination. Taking the upper band to 22 tonnes would accommodate the Type 33 trailers currently used for import – export container transport.

This multi – band approach would also assist in reducing the considerable cost increases operators who habitually “cube out”would face under the proposed regime. However the Forum has proposed another change to help these operators. We have suggested introducing a RUC GVM”, which would enable operators to select an operating mass lower that the manufacturerGVM or the VDAM mass. This would have to be approved by the RUC controller.

A significant number of operators have told the Forum that for safety reasons they will use a vehicle which doesnoptimise its full payload capacity. Their view is that the Static Roll Threshold test cantake into account the effect road gradients, cross falls and other factors such as cross winds can have on a vehicleon – road behaviour. They believe that greater unsprung mass, or number of wheels on the ground, improves control and mitigates adverse handling responses. Ita common opinion among car carriers and other similar out”freight haulers where the load characteristics are likely to be close to the maximum vehicle height but of low density.

A RUC GVM”would assist these operators but to help prevent frequent switching between various RUC weight types, the RUC GVM”could only be amended by an administrative procedure approved by the RUC controller and then only at an absolute minimum of three months coinciding with vehicle relicensing. Altering RUC GVMs at change of ownership would be prohibited to remove the likelihood of sale and purchase on a more regular basis just to change the RUC GVM.

The RUC proposals: fixing the flawsThe Forum has also proposed that each vehicle should have a core RUC licence. This would facilitate fleet flexibility, particularly for trailers in combinations. In contrast to the officialdraft system the Forum would not support the individual vehicles in a HPMV combination not carrying a core RUC licence. Having each vehicle carry a core licence would allow for trailers in B – train combinations to operate at 44 tonnes with another tractor unit if the HPMV tractor was being used elsewhere.

The Forum hasnmade any specific recommendations about the charges under the new regime. In part this is because the information needed to make them isnavailable but primarily because a lot more dialogue between the Forum, the trucking industry and the Ministry of Transport is needed before any charges can be finalised. The changes the Forum is seeking wonproduce an ideal system, but it should make the charging regime more equitable. But recalibrating the RUC system along the lines suggested by the Forum or as proposed in the consultation document will never offer the simplicity of a fuel tax and registration – fee system.

es, the RUC GVM”could only be amended by an administrative procedure approved by the RUC controller and then only at an absolute minimum of three months coinciding with vehicle relicensing. Altering RUC GVMs at change of ownership would be prohibited to remove the likelihood of sale and purchase on a more regular basis just to change the RUC GVM.

The Forum has also proposed that each vehicle should have a core RUC licence. This would facilitate fleet flexibility, particularly for trailers in combinations. In contrast to the officialdraft system the Forum would not support the individual vehicles in a HPMV combination not carrying a core RUC licence. Having each vehicle carry a core licence would allow for trailers in B – train combinations to operate at 44 tonnes with another tractor unit if the HPMV tractor was being used elsewhere.

The Forum hasnmade any specific recommendations about the charges under the new regime. In part this is because the information needed to make them isnavailable but primarily because a lot more dialogue between the Forum, the trucking industry and the Ministry of Transport is needed before any charges can be finalised. The changes the Forum is seeking wonproduce an ideal system, but it should make the charging regime more equitable. But recalibrating the RUC system along the lines suggested by the Forum or as proposed in the consultation document will never offer the simplicity of a fuel tax and registration – fee system.