Overweight Trucks Breaking Law on Harbour Bridge


On average 22 trucks are exceeding the 44 tonne limit on the Auckland Harbour Bridge clip-ons every day.

On average 15 of those vehicles exceed 46 tonnes and last month alone, 80 trucks exceeding 50 tonnes used the clip-ons.

NZTA installed cameras on the bridge linked to weight sensors located on the approaches to the bridge. The cameras are activated when the sensors detect vehicles weighing more than 44 tonnes, and they record the registration plates of offending vehicles.

The problem is they haven’t any muscle as NZTA can’t prosecute.

But they say they’ll now pass on the details to the police so that those vehicles can be weighed at another location.  A truck’s registration, warrant of fitness and road user charges can also be checked.

And it’s calling on the  freight industry to take a tougher line against overweight vehicles.

State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker says NZTA has just completed a big project to strengthen the extension lanes.

“It’s essential that truck drivers observe weight limits now so that we can keep to our long term plans of having all lanes on the bridge available to carry freight.”

Mr Parker says the NZTA has no plans to extend the use of cameras to monitor other vehicles.






  1. Patrick R says:

    So what, more self-regulation?; passed on to the freight industry ‘to take a tougher line on overweight vehicles’ Yeah right.

  2. rtc says:

    Self regulation appears to be working great so far, so no wonder they continue with more of the same….

    This is simply a case of private companies externalising costs i.e. road damage, and the dumb ratepayers pick up the bill.

  3. George D says:

    They’re destroying the bridge. Give them everything under the law. And then change it and make it stronger.

  4. Evan J says:

    It’s about time the NZTA got some muscle so it can prosecute overweight vehicles when their presence threatens specific locations, such as the Auckland Harbour Bridge. However, it must be remembered that most of those vehicles probably travel at night when the centre lanes are closed so they have no option but to use the clip-ons.

  5. Matt says:

    Evan, they do have a choice, even if the central lanes are closed: the Upper Harbour Highway. And it should not be any kind of choice to break, or not, the law.

    The fines need to be huge, and strictly enforced. I’m thinking of the fines that accrue to heavy vehicles that are over their RUC weight. The biggest roadside fine of which I am aware was $126k for being over-weight, and the fines for being over-weight on the Harbour Bridge need to be of the same order. Say $10k/tonne. It’s not close to capturing the real cost of the damage done, but it’s sure as hell a disincentive to the truckies and their operating companies to try and take the shortcut.

  6. Jon R says:

    Totally agree, the road freight industry cannot be trusted. We have these cowboys on our bridge, constant log truck accidents (almost daily)….self regulation - not good for the safety of the general public nor the roading infrastructure.

    Any wonder the trucking industry has taken so much business away from rail?

  7. Geoff says:

    “Any wonder the trucking industry has taken so much business away from rail?”

    It’s the big trucking companies that are putting business onto rail, not taking it away. The freight that went to road a decade ago did so because Tranz Rail intentionally gave it away.

    Mainfreight, Daily Freight, Peter Baker, Owens, Toll etc are all among KiwiRail’s largest customers.

    A lot of freight is slowly returning to rail now, with new wagons and locos making it possible.

  8. Giel says:

    Geoff - True - Tranz Rail did intentionally give away some intermodal Freight away to road as it was hugely loss making for them to carry it. Now with Billions of new capital subsidy to KiwiRail over a few years they can afford to carry this same loss making freight again - albeit at a huge loss if any of the capital being spent is properly accounted for,

    We should be very thankful to our current Government for turning a blind eye to that loss (for a few years at least) as no one else would. This Government really is a good friend to road transport via subsiding the Railways to tunes of Billions of dollars of free capital so they can get Rail freight rates for their cartage below costs whilst at the same time also being a friend to the Railways via the huge capital subsidy keeping that business alive. Killing two birds with one stone there. Well done I say.

  9. ingolfson says:

    “travel at night when the centre lanes are closed”

    Come again? Closed at night?

    Maybe for rare maintenance times, or what else are you talking about?

  10. Evan J says:

    I’m on that road most nights and the centre lanes are usually closed from about 10 pm until 4 am Sunday to Thursday. It is for the reconstruction of the motorway between the bridge and Fanshaw Street southbound; and the tunnel and the bridge northbound, and works associated with it. Southbound traffic is usually one lane across the clip-on exiting at Shelley Beach Road or Fanshaw Street; and northbound is one lane from the tunnel to the bridge and then across the clip-on. Sometimes the tunnel is closed and then it is down Nelson Street to Fanshaw Street, and then left lane only to the bridge and the clip-on. As a rule there is no prior warning that the lanes are closed until you reach the cones, and then there is no turning back.

  11. Matt says:

    Giel, if you have proof that KR is running freight at a huge loss, you should hand it over to National. They’re gagging for an excuse to close the whole operation down.

    If not, you should just STFU. You’re guessing, based on the historic actions of a company that had a road freight arm to help cover the losses it was making on rail freight. KR is not that company.

  12. Matt says:

    Evan, that’s a fairly recent state of affairs, and won’t be permanent. As soon as the flyover reconfiguration has been completed it will cease to be anything more than an infrequent event.

    NZTA also announces lane closures on their website, and if they intended to fine drivers for breaking the weight limits they could put that information up on their website. As it stands, I couldn’t confirm from the site whether your allegations about the central lanes being closed most nights is correct because it doesn’t show up in their works announcements.

  13. Bryan says:

    If the NZTA have evidence of trucks running overweight, then they should be working with the Police’s Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU) to ensure the offenders are prosecuted.

    iirc there’s a weighbridge by Stafford St, near the old toll plaza control building.

  14. Matt says:

    Bryan, the challenge is that the trucks must be pulled over and weighed after crossing the bridge but before they leave the motorway and could claim to have changed their weight.
    The cameras that track the motorway are good because they’re admissible evidence, but a cop car would have to intercept the truck on the motorway and escort it to a weigh station in order to have certainty that the vehicle’s weight had not changed. The weight sensors on the Bridge are unlikely to meet the legal requirements for accuracy and calibration to be admissible evidence.

  15. Giel says:

    Off topic I know but please - Matt - What didn’t you understand about my post? Please put brain into gear before you post - otherwise please don’t post - you just look silly.

    KiwiRail makes a huge loss on freight and for their business as a whole when capital is correctly accounted for. Even a semi financially literate person should be able to see that. KiwiRail acknowledge it as does the Government. I suggest you educate yourself by reading and analysing their 2011 Annual Report and look at their website for their Annual Meeting presentation - analyse it properly and you might just learn something - that is - if you are financially literate and know any thing about railway industry costs and revenues. Otherwise don’t bother and stick to posting expletives and live in your own reality - it is very amusing!

  16. Matt says:

    Giel, you’ve extrapolated their current state into an entire long-term operating model. If you hadn’t noticed, their revenues are increasing and their losses are decreasing. Given that they make bugger-all from track access, they have to be making the money from freight operations. They got stuck with a bunch of crappy long-term contracts that Toll had signed, using rail as a loss-leader to get people tied into their profitable road-freight operation.

    So, again, if you have proof that their long-term operating model is to make a loss on freight operations, take it to National.

  17. Giel says:

    Matt I am not intending to undermine Rail just pointing out that they are along way of from making any real surplus. Yes the Turnaround plan as you allude to is about improving financial performance but to do so they will have to write off completely the next 5 years of capital expenditure plus about 80% of current asset values. That is about a $6 billion write off and a very large part of that is capital yet to be spent - so add that in and the losses are huge. Freight pay no track costs so their reported EBITA is close to meaningless. Take off depreciation, Network costs and any finance cost on debt that should be apportioned to the Railfreight business and I am afraid Railfreights loss would be in excess of $200 million per year - source of analysis of Kiwi Rails 2011 Annual Report

  18. Matt says:

    Ignore the asset value write-off that’ll take place with a separation of the company, though. It’s accounting trickery, nothing more. Doesn’t mean diddly, because the assessed value is not what was paid for the assets.
    Once that’s taken off, the losses are reduced quite significantly. They’re still large, but they’re a heck of a lot smaller than they would be if one just, say, took at face-value the huge apparent loss attributed to an asset value write-down.

  19. Giel says:

    Matt Problem with that is Kiwi Rail plans real capex with real money - well over $4 Billion over the Turnaround Plan period plus the $ 700 Million they paid Toll to buy business plus the over a $1 billion rail spent on non Metro assets since Network was renationalised when Ontrack was formed in 2004 and prior to Turnaround capex starting in 2010. There is nearly $6 Billion there alone by 2020. That was / is real money not accounting trickery that is being written off as having no value. Anyway I look at that as a loss. The accounting trickery is to write things off as non cash write downs because you say it is sunk - in the past and now of no value. Problem is that much of this writedown is for as yet unspent money - bizzare indeed. if you have a $500 k house that you paid $500 k for and someone writes it down to $50K that is a $450 K loss. Especially when $50 k is all you can sell it for on the market or capitalize economic rent on which is effectively what they are saying.

  20. Evan J says:

    It’s all a matter of peas and thimbles - which thimble is what pea hidden under - or should I say allocated to. Once upon a time - until the Lange Labour Government, in fact - the government used to have a different set of values, and the accounting reflected that. Government departments such as railways, post office etc were seen in a much wider context and were used for things such as mopping up the unemployed, training apprentices, developing the land etc, and money was allocated to those things as specific items in the budget - ie the railways had to carry fertilizer free of charge after the war. Then along came Roger Douglas and took those peas from under those thimbles and put them under social welfare thimbles - in fact he probably conjured up a few more peas that didn’t exist before to put under the social welfare labelled thimbles. Problem was, he then calculated how much money had been allocated to railways, post office etc over the years, and demanded it be paid back through asset and land sales etc. One of those thimbles, lately, has been roading, which has virtually become a bottomless black hole into which tax and rate money has been poured in the name of developing the country. If the same accounting that is being applied to the railways, health, military, and just about every other piece of government spending, is applied to roading, all money collected from revenue such as fuel taxes, road user charges and registrations would be ring fenced, and that would be the only money that could be spend on roading. And that definition of roading would have to be fairly wide to include all costs associated with it including the care and rehabilitation of accident victims, policing etc. If a soldier is injured what budget does the care of that soldier come from. I’m not saying this should be the case, it patently can’t. However, a one or two correspondents here seem to hold the view that the railways revenue be ring fenced and put under a railways thimble, and that would be the only money available for the railways to use. Maybe those looking at accounting from a simple pea and thimble point of view should look at going to the $2 shop and buying a few more thimbles.

  21. Geoff says:

    Giel, I don’t think the freight Tranz Rail gave away was loss making. It was basically cost-neutral, so it wasn’t making any profit. It was mostly non-intermodal as well, although plenty of containers still went. The folly of this give-away was that although it didn’t make a profit, it did contribute to track costs, thereby making the more profitable freight even more profitable. The track bill (which is largely fixed) became a bigger burden for the profitable freight, after the cost-neutral freight was given away. That, combined with high leasing costs, almost killed rail in this country.

  22. Giel says:

    Evan J - You are basically saying that Railfreight is not just a business but a wider social service and has lots of Public Good attributes. There are some good arguments to support that view some of which you allude to. What I am advocating is some intellectual honesty about the fundamental economics of rail in NZ from the powers in charge rather than the stated view that the freight railway will be fully commercially sustainable which quite frankly in my view is dreamland stuff. Otherwise like you say we should get the thimbles out now as they are going to be needed sooner or later.

    That is the harsh reality of a misguided view that a low density railway could be thought of as commercially sustainable in any sense of that meaning. Of course that is not to say that it shouldn’t be as efficient as possible. Perhaps the nirvana goal of commercial sustainability is the only way to drive the business behavior towards that optimum efficiency goal. Anyway food for thought.

  23. Evan J says:

    This is a subject for which there is no easy answer. The private marketeers look at the US and see railroads making money, seemingly without government handouts, and paying rates and taxes on their rights of way. But the US is rapidly being overtaken by China where railways are seen as for the public good, and the transportation of goods is probably heavily subsidised in order for the goods to get to the markets as cheaply as possible. Over the ditch in Aus there is debate underway on the future of the motor industry. It can’t survive without government subsidies, but if it is allowed to die because of the competition from Asia, will that same money need to go into the social welfare payment for all those people who will be thrown on the scrapheap, not to mention the job skills training that will be lost, and all the other benefits of having those people in work. In regard to the railways in NZ, it appears to me that those people advocating that the railways be run on purely commercial lines, as per the US, are happy to accept government subsidies for the roads if it helps the road transport industry get the goods to the destinations as cheaply as possible while turning a profit for the truck owners.

  24. Giel says:

    Evan J - Concur with your thoughts. I truly believe rail contributes public good benefits for which it should receive ” payment” for. If these can be identified, quantified and a value put on then maybe the balance of the operation can be commercially sustainable. My point is that without those transfer welfare payments then commercially sustainability maybe a unobtainable nirvana. When such a target is foistered on the business we risk rail going into period of capital starvation again at some future point which may ultimately undermine its future.


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