Friday, 30 April 2004 - 10:00am |
National News

Heavy vehicle speed limit standardised

6 min read

From 3 May 2004, the open road speed limit for all heavy vehicles will be standardised at 90 km/h (except school buses, which will remain on an 80km/h limit). Heavy vehicles are defined as any vehicle with a gross laden weight of more than 3500kg – which includes some larger types of campervans as well as trucks and buses.

At the same time, the enforcement tolerance for heavy vehicles exceeding the speed limit will be reduced from 10km/h to 5km/h. This reduced tolerance will apply to all heavy vehicles including trucks, buses, and recreational vehicles with a gross laden weight over 3500kg.

The new uniform speed limit will enable Police to better monitor and prevent all heavy vehicles from driving at unsafe and excessive speeds.

This combined with the lower tolerance threshold will encourage drivers of heavy vehicles to stay within the speed limit – thus helping prevent crashes.

"We know that heavy vehicles travelling at high speed present a unique danger to everyone on the roads, " said Police Commissioner Rob Robinson

"In fact, - 20% of fatal crashes last year involved a commercial vehicle. That's 80 deaths a year and it is deaths like these that we are hoping to avoid.’

A uniform speed limit of 90km/h for all heavy vehicles will also help reduce speed variations between vehicles and encourage smoother traffic flows, which in turn will help reduce the risks of overtaking between vehicles and lessen driver frustration at being caught behind slower moving vehicles.

"Police have no plans to alter the current 10km/h discretionary tolerance applied to all other vehicles. The reduced tolerance for heavy vehicles is intended to address the special risks they present - they take longer to stop, are less stable and present significant risk to the driving public at high speeds," said Commissioner Robinson.

Questions and Answers

1. What's the definition of a heavy vehicle?

Any vehicle which has a gross vehicle mass of more than 3500 kg is classified as a heavy vehicle. This includes trucks, buses, coaches, large passenger vehicles and larger campervans.

2. How do I know whether my vehicle falls into the heavy vehicle category?

All heavy motor vehicles need a certificate of fitness and receive a certificate of loading. The certificate of loading will state the gross vehicle mass. While some light vehicles such as rental vehicles and taxis complete a Certificate of Fitness, their certificate of loading will indicate a gross vehicle mass of under 3,500kg.

3. What's the effect of this regulation?

The regulation will instigate a uniform speed limit of 90km/h for all heavy vehicles, except school buses. While for most heavy vehicles, there is no change, at the moment there are two different speed limits - 80 km/h and 90 km/h - for different sized trucks. Currently 84% of the heavy vehicle fleet is subject to the 90km/h limit, while 16% are subject to the 80km/h limit. While this 16% of trucks will be able to go faster under the new regulation, the discretionary tolerance for all heavy vehicles applied by police enforcing the speed limit will be reduced from 10km/h to 5km/h. This will encourage more heavy vehicles to stick to the speed limit.

3a. - What kind of trucks are currently subject to the 80km/h limit?

Trucks attached to trailers by a drawbar (connecting pole).are currently subject to an 80km/h limit. There are two types of these - known as truck and trailer units and A-train units.

4. How will this be enforced?

Police will be taking a much tougher approach to heavy vehicles exceeding the maximum speed limit, and any heavy vehicle going 5km/h or more over any applicable limit will be subject to a speeding fine. This applies not just to the maximum open road limit of 90km/h but to 50km/h zones, etc.

5. When will the uniform speed limit take effect?

The new regulation will come into force on 3 May 2004.

6. Why is the change being made?

New Zealand has a special problem with truck crashes, as crashes in which a truck is involved account for approximately 20% of all road fatalities and 7.5% of all injuries.

The ratio of fatality rates for trucks versus all vehicles for New Zealand (3.30) is considerably greater than for most of the other countries, eg, France (2.93), Canada (2.23), Australia (2.07), United States (1.72), Great Britain (1.49). (Except for Sweden whose ratio of 3.94 is not comparable with the other countries because of data differences.) This ratio is an indicator of the extent to which the truck fatality risk is greater than the overall fatality risk.

Also, the relative importance of truck fatalities, expressed as a percentage of all fatalities is somewhat higher for New Zealand (20.3%) than in the other countries (eg, Germany 19.4%, Great Britain 16.3%, Australia 14.9%, United States 13.0%).

In Australia and probably also in New Zealand the higher truck fatality rates when compared with countries such as the United States and Great Britain can be explained, to a large extent, by the much smaller proportion of divided roads and freeways/motorways. While these comparisons were based on 1997-1999 data, and there have been some improvements in fatality rates since then, the truck fatality problem in New Zealand remains a major concern, irrespective of which measure is used. The fact that truck travel is increasing at about 6% annually, compared with about 3% for other vehicles makes the problem of reducing truck crash fatalities even more difficult.

At the moment the two different speed limits for differing categories of heavy trucks is causing problems for the general motoring public, and for Police in enforcing the 80 km/h and 90/km/h maximum speed limits. These include:

  • unsafe or risky driving behaviour by some motorists travelling behind vehicles restricted to the lower 80km/h speed limit
  • motorists don't necessarily know there are two separate speed limits for heavy trucks, or can't always distinguish between the different types of heavy trucks
  • differing speed limits mean that it is difficult for Police to monitor the speeds of heavy vehicles - particularly trucks - and enforce the applicable speed limit.

7. How will it improve safety?

Creating a common maximum speed limit will provide the following safety benefits:

  • contribute to smoother traffic flows, particularly on the open road
  • lessen the need for other motorists to have to perform risky overtaking manoeuvres to pass slower moving trucks and trailers
  • reduce motorists' frustration at being caught behind slower trucks
  • help Police more effectively monitor and enforce maximum speed limits
  • encourage heavy truck drivers to stick within the 90km/h speed limit, knowing there's a higher chance of them being caught if they do speed.

8. Isn't there a risk that the ability to drive faster will make larger trucks less safe?

The Vehicle Dimension and Mass Rule introduced in 2002 requires larger types of heavy vehicles to undergo certification (and in some cases modification) to meet a new static roll threshold (SRT) requirement. The trucking industry has now complied with this requirement which means larger trucks are more stable and thus safer to drive at the 90km/h speed limit.

9. How can you be sure that the new speed limit will result in safer driving by heavy vehicles - particularly large truck drivers?

The road transport industry has been asking for this change for some time now and has already indicated to the Government that when the uniform speed limit comes into effect, they will be reinforcing to their drivers the need for safer driving behaviour.

10. What's currently being done to reduce heavy vehicle crashes?

Current measures in place include:

  • Requirement for all heavy vehicles to meet minimum standards for stability (SRT)
  • covert surveys monitoring actual truck speeds
  • regular observation surveys to check truck load security including type, truck, load and weight
  • random audits to identify the number and type of heavy vehicle defects and their road-safety risks.

Further enforcement and safety measures are also in the pipeline. These include:

  • a proposed pilot heavy vehicle safety joint LTSA/Police inspection scheme aimed at reducing truck driver 'at fault' crashes such as overloading
  • the proposed strengthening of penalties for repeat unlicensed transport service operators
  • introduction of graduated penalties for driving hours and logbook offences.