Retiring road transport industry lobbyist says more funding needed to improve Taranaki roads

In his role with the Road Transport Association Tom Cloke has been involved every major road project in the region for the past 30 years.

STUFF In his role with the Road Transport Association Tom Cloke has been involved every major road project in the region for the past 30 years.

Outspoken road transport advocate Tom Cloke has been involved in every major roading project in Taranaki for the past 30 years.

Cloke has been part of the Bell Block bypass, Normanby overpass, Vickers to New Plymouth city upgrade, and the proposed Mt Messenger bypass. 

He’s driven State Highway 3, north from New Plymouth, so many times he knows “every stone individually”.

But Cloke retireD from his role as National Road Carrier Association (NRCA) Taranaki executive last Friday after three decades helping shape roading policy in Taranaki. The region will be serviced by a NRCA representative in the Manawatu.

In 1990 Cloke was given the role by the Road Transport Association (RTA) to change the public’s perception of the industry.

This was before a group broke away more recently and formed the NRCA.

“They (RTA) told me I was doing the job and ‘No’ was not an answer,” he said.

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“There was a perception of a lot of dirty, dangerous trucks on the road and we had to move forward to change it.

“They told me to go away, write my own job description and lift the image of the industry.”

The role was to make the public aware how important the road transport industry is, and advocate safe road design and building roads fit for purpose.

Cloke has lobbied to improve road safety and road use throughout Taranaki.

STUFF

Cloke has lobbied to improve road safety and road use throughout Taranaki.

It consumed his working life and made him a recognisable face at road transport meetings.

“Road transport affects everyone every day and without a strong roading network you can’t service the community and it will come to a standstill,” he said.

Cloke has worked with police, WorkSafe, New Zealand Transport Agency, district and regional councils to “cement partnerships” with the trucking industry.

“Transport is like a game where I’m the coach, the ones behind the wheel are the team, and the police and other regulators are the referees.

“The coach and referees won’t always agree but we all need to work together to be make sure the players are compliant and legal.”

The industry is now far safer and more compliant than ever, he said.

“When I started we would be getting a lot of calls about speeding truck drivers – now we get hardly any.”

Drivers are now better trained and GPS, cameras, and rigorous drug testing ensure they operate within the regulations, he said.

Part of his lobbying included demanding bigger parking spaces in New Plymouth, because of the growing size of modern cars.

Robert Charles/FAIRFAX NZ

Part of his lobbying included demanding bigger parking spaces in New Plymouth, because of the growing size of modern cars.

There’s also been the behind the scenes lobbying – such as installing a mirror on the Mt Messenger tunnel to alert for oncoming traffic, and highlighting small car parks for modern cars. 

But there is still much to be achieved to improve roads in Taranaki, with a long list up needed upgrades, he said.

Because of this, Cloke said it was frustrating no funding for major future projects had been allocated for the region, except for that earmarked for the Mt Messenger bypass. 

But Cloke, who is also a councillor with the Taranaki Regional Council, said it was time to step down while he still had good health, and could spend time with grandchildren.

“I’ve enjoyed the job. It’s a good industry to work in and I’ll miss the people involved.”

Stuff

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