Taking road user charges into the 21st century, New Zealand is the first country to allow an end-to-end wireless road user charge (RUC) system for the country’s heavy truck fleets. The revolutionary technology allows truck operators to apply for RUC licences online and have them sent direct to display units in the trucks. Modernising New Zealand’s $1 billion RUC system could generate a payback of more than $1 billion to $2 billion to the economy in improved productivity, reduced RUC evasion and reduced administration and enforcement costs, says Brian Michie, founder and business development manager of Auckland-based technology company Eroad.
Headed by former Navman chief executive, Steven Newman, Eroad is the first company to be given an official license by the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) to sell and supply RUC licenses electronically. The company spent nearly 10 years developing a secure web-based payment gateway linked to the NZTA, the truck operator and an electronic hubodometer in the truck’s cab. Eroad’s eHubo incorporates a fleet tracking system and is designed to replace the often faulty mechanical hubodometers attached to truck axels.
“This really is a world first,” says Michie. Most countries are looking to move from a fuel charge system to a more user-pays system like New Zealand, based on distance and weight, to spread the cost of maintaining their road networks more fairly, he says. “What we’ve effectively done is modernise New Zealand’s paper-based system, so any country wanting to implement a heavy vehicle road charging regime could simply roll out our system. The only thing they need is a mobile network.”
Auckland-based fragile freight and furniture movers A One Movers is one of the first trucking companies to take up the Eroad’s eRUC system. Managing director Vanessa Milham says it’s been an exciting change for the company. “It’s all in one and goes straight to the truck, so we can manage our road users right up to the last minute. We only need to buy the weight we need for the period of time we need it and that saves us money.”
In the past truck companies were having to chase trucks with supplementary RUC licenses, or fax temporary ones to dairies, to ensure their trucks were compliant and weren’t pinged by heavy fines, says Michie. “Non-accidental compliance can murder these guys.” Michie says the return on investment for moving to its eRUC system is up to 300 percent. Many of the country’s 160,000 larger trucks pay upwards of $100,000 a year in RUC, or more than 20 percent of a freight companies’ business costs.
Waiting in the wings is Auckland-based fleet management company International Telematics, which has also been granted approved RUC licence seller status by the NZTA, whose online system should go live within the next month. Chief executive Andrew Sutherland says the system also helps customers apply for and receive RUC rebates for off-road use - worth more than $50 million a year. “It’s very good for customers and it’s good for us…as there’s more opportunity for us to add value to what our customers do.”
Eroad is also hoping to revolutionise Europe’s road user charge systems when it demonstrates its technology at the World ITS Congress in Sweden tomorrow, just one of five companies invited to do so. Given New Zealand’s so advanced in this area, it can only help us look good abroad, says Michie. “It’s hard to make RUC sexy, but this is a huge industry, a multibillion euro industry, and Eroad is the only company going with a commercially available, fully wireless system that could be fully rolled out straight away.”
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