Sunday, November 28

Taxi owners tell NZTA to clamp down or pay: ‘It’s your fault’

Some RV and horse truck owners are demanding that the Transportation Agency remove the drastic measures that are forcing more and more vehicles off the road, or pay the costs itself.

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Photo: 123RF

Frustration is mounting after months of bickering over a requirement introduced in May for any cabin modified since 2005 for certification that can cost up to $ 30,000.

The agency has said that the rules it is enforcing now were “ambiguous” and applied inconsistently before, but it also admitted that it has no evidence that unsafe modified vehicle cabs have caused fatalities or serious injuries.

Now he promises a fifteen-day solution that balances security with equity for homeowners.

However, many vehicle owners are skeptical about that and the reasons for the crackdown in the first place, such as the owner of the Mosgiel horse truck, Charlotte Young.

“It seems to me that someone just woke up one day and was looking for work,” Young said.

“I’m not sure this is driven by driver safety.

“I have three teenage boys who are hitting the road. I think that should be their [NZTA’s] priority because young men are dying on our roads, while mothers who drive trucks on horseback are not. “

Waka Kotahi said there is evidence of poorly modified cabins, but he also said: “No anecdotal evidence of the damage caused by this hazard has been found.”

Taxis are modified in New Zealand, or abroad and then imported, usually to connect with the living space behind. Testing in 2018 – disputed by some engineers – in bare truck cabs showed that this could reduce their strength by 25-85 percent.

Poor enforcement of the rules from years ago has resulted in many vehicles being repeatedly imported or approved on semi-annual Certificates of Fitness or COF, without questioning their lack of certification.

“Once Waka Kotahi realized that the guide was causing ambiguity for inspectors, it specifically announced that the cab modifications needed certification,” said NZTA.

Geoffrey Mayne from Kaiwaka, north of Auckland, said this is NZTA’s problem, not his.

“The safety issue is not going to be avoided,” said Mayne, whose motorhome should have a new COF in a month.

“But now I want to know who is really financially responsible for whatever work needs to be done.

“Surely it cannot be because this vehicle has had 30 COFs from various agencies … all certified by Waka Kotahi. It is their fault that they have not fulfilled their duty to enforce the rules.”

He has been writing to the Minister of Transport asking who is responsible.

No solution yet

A collective representing some 70 horse truck owners had their lawyer write to NZTA last week, explaining why they believe the crackdown is wrong.

Julian Stone from Waikato is one of them.

“It is not acceptable to just get people out of the way … when the rules are not clear, they are disputed and there is no easy way to rectify it,” Stone said.

It would be simpler to accept prior roadside inspections and exempt existing vehicles, he said.

But NZTA has not been able to find a solution.

He created a 24-person panel, with 10 specialist engineers, in June, but that panel is now on hiatus and the issue has been sent ‘up’ to a project team dominated by lawyers.

The minutes of the panel meetings show that it debated a dozen solutions, but failed to come up with any, as each had its drawbacks.

Mayn will not attempt a new COF as long as it remains so uncertain, and he believes this could continue because the agency fears responsibility.

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Photo: 123RF


Dunedin’s Barb Smith calls the agency “confused” and “paralyzed,” with the result that her motorhome trip to Hamilton stalls.

The retirement gift that she and her husband Russell made for themselves this year, a 2012 Fiat motorhome, was due to receive a COF this week.

“We have a beautiful, expensive and lovely motorhome here at the front door that we cannot legally exit as of September 20,” he said.

“We are in limbo.”

Custom-built motorhomes built to European standards shouldn’t be clustered with backyard junkers, Smith said.

She is among 100 owners who have filed complaints against NZTA through the Motor Caravan Association.

‘Commercially loaded’

The crackdown on the cab trim has also increased business risks for manufacturers modifying trucks into buses, an increasingly popular vehicle for school tours.

Richard Drummond of Rotorua’s Kiwi Bus Builders will continue to build them, even though any cabin trim now needs an NZTA exemption.

“[It’s] commercially fraught with dangers actually because … you already have the truck and are on your way to building it.

“But there is no guarantee of … getting an exemption,” Drummond said.

“You can’t take it for granted.”

You have some truck-buses in this situation.

Drummond is asking the truck manufacturers themselves to get involved, although for existing vehicles, trying to enforce the rules retrospectively was a mistake, the bus builder said.

“It just sounds like someone looking for a problem, doesn’t it?”

Charlotte Young in Mosgiel is watching the clock tick to her next COF to be delivered in December.

Engineers have already questioned whether his truck will pass, jeopardizing his family’s jumping trips and part-time horse breeding business.

Ironically, she already had a smaller truck, with an LT400 and a COF, but she is selling it because she needed the bigger one.

“There is a deadline looming on which not only our sport but also our business is built,” said Young of Grassyards Farm.

“So I would like to know if it is fulfilled now, not in December, when I will not be able to fix anything until the end of January, February.”

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