AA cool on farm trans­port change, oth­ers back idea

The Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion says new rules would al­low fa­tigued op­er­a­tors to drive on roads. Sue O’dowd re­ports.

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

Pro­posed changes to agri­cul­tural trans­port rules threaten pub­lic safety, the Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion says. The or­gan­i­sa­tion says it is wor­ried that agri­cul­tural ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tors who work long hours will put mo­torists at risk.

‘‘They might be driv­ing home af­ter 18 hours on a trac­tor,’’ prin­ci­pal AA ad­viser Mark Stock­dale, of Welling­ton, said.

‘‘What con­fi­dence can mo­torists have that an agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery op­er­a­tor work­ing long hours on a farm is not fa­tigued when he’s on a pub­lic road?

‘‘The agri­cul­tural in­dus­try says it’s dif­fi­cult to work within the reg­u­la­tions (re­strict­ing drivers’ hours of work) but the trade-off is pub­lic safety.’’

The Government’s pro­posed changes will es­tab­lish a two-tier speed sys­tem for agri­cul­tural ve­hi­cles.

Those op­er­at­ing be­low 40kmh on the road will be ex­empt from war­rants of fit­ness and the re­quire­ments lim­it­ing the num­ber of hours that drivers can work.

Hold­ers of a re­stricted car li­cence can drive th­ese ve­hi­cles.

Agri­cul­tural ve­hi­cles ex­ceed­ing 40kmh on the road will need an an­nual war­rant of fit­ness and must be driven by the holder of an agri­cul­tural en­dorse­ment or class 2 li­cence.

As­so­ciate Trans­port Min­is­ter Simon Bridges said the pro­pos­als would re­duce com­pli­ance costs with­out com­pro­mis­ing safety.

The NZ Trans­port Agency is seek­ing pub­lic feed­back on the changes un­til Novem­ber 30.

Agri­cul­tural con­trac­tor Billy Mo­ratti said op­er­a­tors would still be re­stricted to work­ing 13 hours a day, with reg­u­lar half-hour breaks, un­less they gained an ex­emp­tion, per­haps af­ter a long pe­riod of wet weather.

Con­trac­tors would hire more staff and equip­ment so health and safety guide­lines were ob­served, he said.

Op­er­a­tors would be col­lected from farms and de­liv­ered home if nec­es­sary.

Mr Mo­ratti wants the speed limit for agri­cul­tural ve­hi­cles in­creased to 50kmh for bet­ter traf­fic flow.

‘‘If we’re trav­el­ling at 40kmh, it means we take longer to get there and hold up more traf­fic.’’

Early-morn­ing traf­fic could be heavy and agri­cul­tural ve­hi­cles were for­bid­den from trav­el­ling con­tin­u­ously in­side the white line on the left of the road. Mr Mo­ratti said traf­fic could be in­tol­er­ant. ‘‘Drivers are im­pa­tient, they toot, they flash their lights, they pass in stupid places. ‘‘Ev­ery­one’s in a hurry.’’ Mr Stock­dale said the AA pre­ferred the ex­ist­ing 30kmh speed limit and op­posed a 50kmh limit. ‘‘The faster you go, the big­ger the mess.’’ The AA doubted the abil­ity of an 18-year-old with a re­stricted class 1 li­cence to drive a 25-tonne trac­tor on the road and con­sid­ered train­ing was es­sen­tial.

Ru­ral Con­trac­tors New Zealand ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Roger Par­ton, of Welling­ton, said his or­gan­i­sa­tion sup­ported all the changes.

Young­sters who grew up on farms were of­ten com­pe­tent op­er­a­tors of ma­chin­ery, and no con­trac­tor would let an in­ex­pe­ri­enced per­son op­er­ate ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cles.

Op­er­a­tors want­ing to drive ve­hi­cles at 50kmh would face more com­pli­ance is­sues and the 40kmh limit met the in­dus­try’s re­quire­ments.

‘‘Op­er­a­tors are aware of the size and speed of their ve­hi­cles, and make way as soon as they can, but some­times there’s nowhere for them to go.’’

Agri­cul­tural ve­hi­cles rep­re­sented 1.15 per cent of New Zealand’s ve­hi­cle fleet and were in­volved in 0.2 per cent of ac­ci­dents be­tween 1997 and 2010, Mr Par­ton said.

There were 28 fa­tal­i­ties, 73 peo­ple se­ri­ously in­jured and 175 mi­nor in­juries, he said.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers trans­port spokesman Ian Macken­zie said the pro­pos­als were com­mon sense and un­likely to have any ad­verse ef­fect on safety.

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