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Rates differ based on the type and weight of the vehicle 

Read - Background to the road user chargers (RUC) system  [PDF, 1.6 MB]

There are over 80 rates of road user charges as various different vehicles are subject to road user charges. Vehicles can range from a relatively small hatchback passenger vehicle to a very large double trailer truck with multiple axles. Some very specialised vehicles may also be subject to road user charges – for example, very large all-terrain cranes.

Rates of road user charges range from around $72 to over $600 per 1,000 kilometres (including GST) as specified in regulations.

Road User Charges (Rates) Regulations 2015 (New Zealand Legislation)(external link)

Waka Kotahi, the NZ Transport Agency has a table and calculator to help road users see what road user charges may apply to their vehicle on their website.

RUC rates and transaction fees(external link)

RUC calculator(external link)

In general, the rates of road user charges vary based on the weight and the type of vehicle. Road user charges are set so someone with a heavier vehicle pays more than someone with a lighter vehicle, based on average calculations of the vehicle’s likely impact on the road pavement. All other things being equal, the heavier the vehicle, the more damage it does to the road surface.

Other factors also make a difference. In particular, the number of axles a vehicle has impacts road wear and is also taken into account.

Gross vehicle mass (GVM) indicates the weight band that applies to a vehicle

Rates for some vehicle types are specified in weight bands that provide a lower and upper weight for each vehicle type. The road user charges system uses the gross vehicle mass (GVM) to indicate the weight band that applies to a vehicle type. 

Each vehicle has a GVM determined by the vehicle manufacturer. The GVM provides the maximum legal on-road weight for the vehicle – the maximum amount that the vehicle can weigh when fully loaded.

The GVM calculation takes into account the strength of the vehicle, the vehicle’s chassis and braking system. The GVM is recorded on the Motor Vehicle Register when a vehicle is imported into New Zealand and may also be imprinted on the vehicle (for example, underneath the vehicle’s hood).

The GVM is used to indicate a weight band for a vehicle. As some vehicles of the same vehicle type may weigh different amounts, different weight bands exist. The RUC system uses the term “RUC weight”. The RUC weight for any vehicle is the vehicle’s GVM.

Rates of road user charges are calculated based on the average laden weight of a vehicle subject to that rate

Rates of road user charges are set based on a calculation of the average laden weight of vehicles within each weight band or vehicle type. Rates are not calculated using the maximum weight indicated by a particular weight band or the GVM.

This means that if you have a vehicle with a GVM lower than the maximum weight indicated by the band the rate charged is not for the band’s heaviest vehicles or calculated based on the band’s upper weight.

A cost allocation model is used to proportion costs between different vehicle types

Overall, the road user charges system seeks to impose charges in proportion to the costs that a vehicle generates on average. The cost allocation model, informed by engineering and accounting principles, allocates costs in terms of expenditure from the National Land Transport Programme to vehicle types.

Expenditure from the National Land Transport Programme is categorised as one of the following:

  • common costs – this mostly includes expenditure relating to road signage, road markings, routine maintenance, traffic lights, general road policing and public transport subsidies
  • gross vehicle weight-related costs – expenditure relating to bridges and pavement strength
  • heavy vehicle policing costs – expenditure for the Police’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Team
  • pavement wear costs – expenditure related to pavement maintenance, resurfacing and rehabilitation
  • space costs – expenditure related to construction and land purchases

Each cost category is allocated in different proportions to different vehicle types. For a light vehicle, most of the costs allocated are common costs. Pavement wear costs and space costs are allocated in a much greater proportion to heavier vehicles due to their greater impact on the road pavement. Minimal amounts of road wear costs are allocated to light vehicles. Heavy vehicle policing costs are allocated entirely to heavy vehicles.

Rates are calculated on the basis that a vehicle is empty half the time

Rates of road user charges are set on the assumption about how often a vehicle is loaded to its average laden weight. This ensures road user charges reflect the costs and impact of a vehicle’s operation on the road based on how vehicles (albeit freight vehicles) are ordinarily operated.

The rates assume a vehicle is loaded only to its average laden weight around 55% of the time. This is based on the assumption that a vehicle (for example, a truck) is half the time loaded and unloaded. A truck, for example, maybe fully loaded on its outbound trip and empty on its return trip. The calculation, therefore, does not assume a vehicle is always loaded to its average laden weight.

Rates of road user charges are not different (or lower) for private versus commercial vehicles

Rates of road user charges depend on the weight and vehicle type of the vehicle. Rates are not based on whether the vehicle is used for a commercial, private or recreational purpose.

Road user charges are paid for the use of the road and based on a calculation of the vehicle's average impact on the road surface. However, large commercial trucks do tend to pay more to use the road than most private vehicles due to their heavier weight.

Every road user charges vehicle now has a fixed weight

The road user charges legislation was amended in 2012. One of the changes made means each vehicle subject to road user charges has a permanent or fixed weight recorded on the motor vehicle register.

Vehicle owners can no longer nominate a weight for their vehicle. This change simplified administration as vehicle owners no longer have to estimate their vehicle’s actual gross weight during a journey.

Some vehicle owners previously found it challenging to predict the weight to be carried in advance, and scales are not always available to accurately determine a vehicle’s weight prior to travel. This change also sought to make the system fairer and meant that honest payers no longer subside those who sought to avoid payment by underestimating their vehicle's weight.