It is no secret that Auckland has a traffic problem, during the peak hours of 6am-8am and 4pm-6pm during the working/school week the congestion along motorways, state highways and roads is ridiculous. Not only is there stop-start traffic during peak hours, but traffic may also occur due to other factors including natural disasters and roadwork, closing busy motorways and main roads. According to the New Zealand Herald, the average Aucklander spends up to 12 working days per year stuck in traffic. The government has encouraged the use of public transport with the updated train services, increased bus stops, discounts and automated payments including the Hop Card, but what is the affect traffic and congestion is having on our truck drivers? Those who earn a living sitting behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle.
The North-Western Motorway is currently undergoing structural and infrastructural change due to increased housing opportunities in areas including Riverhead, Hobsonville Point and Helensville. Eastbound lanes between Lincoln Road off-ramp and Te Atatu Peninsula off-ramp are usually closed between 10pm-5am, and Westbound lanes between St Lukes Road off ramp and Great North Road on ramp are closed between 11pm-5am. Closures similar to this are frequently occurring all over Auckland, adding to the poor road layouts and detours. The government and New Zealand Transport Agency have chosen to work on the roads at night to benefit the majority of the Auckland community with day jobs, but on the other hand, this notion negatively affects those who work night shifts. Truck drivers working night shifts are forced to take elongated routes, ultimately using more petrol and working longer hours trying to make deadlines. These sacrifices are for future benefit in which will include extra motorway lanes and a tunnel to South Auckland which will knock a considerable amount of time off Airport round trips from West Auckland. But how can we change the current structure to accommodate those transporting the goods and products we consume daily?
On the 20th December 2016, a truck crash caused major traffic congestion on SH20, the main route to the Auckland Airport spilling gravel all over the road. Travellers rushing to catch flights abandoned their cars and made their way to the airport by foot adding to the traffic problems. Auckland Airport tried to damage control with the use of their social media accounts, tweeting to the travellers to stay within their cars, but fell on many deaf ears as there were no delays in flights due to the incident. The lanes on SH20 were closed at approximately 4.20pm and were re-opened at about 6pm that same day, with southbound lanes cleared around 5.30pm. The almost 2-hour ordeal could have been avoided with the conditions taken into consideration, including speed, vehicle size and weight, time, route and most importantly (for truck drivers) job urgency.
The use of technology and the internet can help each trucker plan for their individual journeys before taking off. When planning each route, considerations in areas including natural disasters/weather, current events, time frames, public holidays and school holidays will impact traffic and congestion throughout Auckland and New Zealand. The Trucker App available on PlayStore for Android and iTunes for Apple makes planning your route as a truck driver simple, with trucker stops located around New Zealand incorporated on the maps and routes.