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Levy_logo_FGLT_small2014

 Levy funded Transportation Committee

John Robinson, New Zealand Tree Grower November 2015.

The Transportation Committee has a work programme to complete on behalf of the wider levy paying community. This programme aims to represent the interests of all forest growers in matters relating to commercial road use and log cartage. Examples are vehicle productivity and rural road funding as well as promoting safety and best practice within forestry transportation.

The current Chair for 2015 is the author of this article and there are an additional 12 regular invitees to the meetings.They represent the views of various levels of forest owner and provide a regional spread. Meetings are held quarterly and additional work is carried out throughout the year by committee members and staff from within the NZ Forest Owners Association. We have a close working relationship with the Log Transport Safety Council who represent the log truck operators and are the practitioners of log transport.

Due to the time constraints of members we focus on a small number of concerns at any one time and then move on to the next as required.We choose items which relate to industry promotion, community benefit and direct financial benefit to all forest owners.The current work programmes are related to the Share the road Programme, regional road funding and targeted rates and the vehicle mass and dimension changes. Below are some of the current programmes.

Share the Road

The Share the Road programme was developed by Hancock Forest Management led by Peter Houston and consists of a PowerPoint presentation with the opportunity for children to look at and experience a logging truck. It is aimed at helping children understanding the size and scale of the truck, how and what hazards the driver is looking out for and how to be safe around trucks on the road.The programme was developed and been reviewed with the teacher in mind and provides curriculum based materials which teachers can use to reinforce the experience.

Experienced drivers who are able to relate the message to children are carefully selected and trained to present the material and are the primary presenter. The driver is accompanied by a real log truck and also a supervisor or representative for the local forest company. The children are able to sit in the log truck, see its size at first hand and generally ask any question they have about log trucks and forestry in general.

The programme has been running in the central North Island and Northland for a number of years. This year the coordination of the programme has been taken on by the Forest Owners Association with the aim of maintaining it and gaining a wider audience across the country.

Southland is the next area where the programme will be rolled out via local forest companies and the SouthernWood Council. Any rural schools who are interested should contact their regional wood council or a local forest company.

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Regional road funding

Regional road funding is a major concern for the whole country and it requires a bit of background and understanding to ensure the right message is communicated. At the risk of boring some readers I will attempt to summarise the situation and some option for the solution we are working on.

Logs travel on a number of roads on their way to market −

  • The forest road which is built and maintained by the land owner
  • A council controlled road which is built and maintained by the local district council for the community
  • The state highway network built and maintained by central government for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Roads are funded privately for the land owner via a funding assistance grant and rates for the council roads. This all varies by district as to how much is supported by central government but it is usually around 50 per cent. State highways are funded directly through taxes such as from fuel, road user charges and levies.

Targeted rate

Generally within districts the construction and maintenance is carried out within normal financial constraints. Therefore the money gets allocated to where it is deemed to be needed the most, maximising the benefit to the whole community.When there is not enough money for a particular service the council can impose a direct rate on the people who benefit from the spend − a targeted rate.

This may sound fair. However, what happens to the forest road which exits directly on to the state highway network or even better, goes directly to the customer on a private road? There are also forest owners who share the road with other farms who use trucks or quarries who also use trucks. A targeted rate cannot differentiate.

As forest owners we accept that there are constraints and we are happy to contribute our share to the maintenance of the local roads, but what is that share? We pay rates for 30 years before we harvest, we pay road user charges and we also contribute directly in some cases, and indirectly in all cases, by generating jobs for the community where people working can also pay their rates on their own property.

The forest industry in general does not like targeted rates but want to pay a fair share.As part of the work of the committee we have got together with the district councils, via the road controlling authority special interest group, and are developing the ways to determine what a fair contribution is.We are also developing options made available to the individual forest owners and the council to generate additional funding for specific roads where more is required.We have met twice, developed a memorandum of understanding and will now start working on the potential solutions to fairly allocate the user pays scenario for rural roads.

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Vehicle mass and dimension review

This is a review of what trucks can carry on our roads and it is a minefield of regulation. There were gains when the rules around what a truck can carry on roads changed. Most people will have noticed trucks with five axle trailers, the result of lobbying from a number of road transport groups including forest owners.

This has allowed trucks to carry more weight provided they had specific permits, and for some time all trucks required the special permits. The general productivity of the trucks, for little or no noticeable difference on the road, was significantly increased. In some cases, on some roads, trucks are able to have a gross weight of 57 tonnes allowing them to carry 13 more tonnes of logs.

As the knowledge got better via trials, and more roads were included in the high productivity motor vehicles programme, some configurations and weights were standardised and we were heading to some logical rules. However, things are not easy when it comes to allocating road user charges to the multitude of different configurations and weights of trucks. This has resulted in some configurations, which had previously fallen out of favour for safety reasons, coming back into operation.

The review is continuing and in the end we will see a logical development of rules around what a truck can carry and the size it can be. But it will take a long time.The take home message is that there is a review happening, it is difficult to understand the detail but the industry is getting productivity gains from the trucks in our forests.

John Robinson is the Chair of the joint FOA / NZFFA Transportation Committee.

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