NZ Herald: Mega-trucking Benefits are a long way away

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The Herald comes out swinging against Steven Joyce and heavy trucks.

Virtually from the moment he became the Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce was an “enthusiastic” supporter of mega-trucks. He was convinced of the productivity gains to be made from allowing greater maximum loads.

Little heed was paid to naysayers, who focused on the increased threat to safety on the roads. Acting decisively, Mr Joyce decreed that from May this year, trucks would be able to carry loads of up to 53 tonnes on specified routes, up from the previous limit of 44 tonnes. The upshot, three months later, raises questions about his reasoning and his rush.

It is now apparent that Auckland’s Southern Motorway will not be able to support the new trucks for several years. The Transport Agency has conceded it will take that long to make up to a dozen points “compliant” for them. The obvious weak points are bridges, such as those over the Tamaki River and the Puhinui Stream.

The Herald also points out the irony of the Transport Agency’s view, who say that:

..while it will be some time before mega-trucks can use the Southern Motorway to carry freight to and from Auckland’s port, consignments could be split up and sent by rail between the port company’s inland distribution centre at Wiri and the waterfront.

This is an issue that the CBT raised almost a year ago:

Whilst the current legal limit is a gross mass of 44 tonnes, most of the bridges on the state highway network and indeed the local road network were designed and constructed to carry lower loads. However, they continue to perform beyond expectations because of the conservative nature of some designs, material strengths that are higher than allowed for or ongoing upgrades and strengthening programmes.

306 state highway bridges would require strengthening, or detailed investigation and an estimated $85M would be required to fund the work over a period of several years.

Of these bridges, only 13 have already been included on the approved 09/12 Bridge Replacement and Upgrade Programme due to their current condition. The results have not been studied in detail to determine if any of the bridges should be replaced rather than strengthened.

As we’ve said before, this looks like a sop to the trucking industry, who seem to be expecting all other road users to help pay for the necessary strengthening work.

Hamilton Submissions: Waikato Trains Now!

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Submissions on the Draft Annual Plans for Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council close this Friday, 23rd April. This is your chance to remind both councils you want Waikato Trains Now!

The CBT has made it easy for you, and you can kill two birds with one stone and submit your opposition to big trucks at the same time.

A template submission to the Hamilton City Council is here. Email this one to

A template submission to the Waikato District Council is here.  Email this one to

Yes, you can send a submission to both councils, no matter where you live. With everyone’s help, we’ll get our Waikato Trains Now!

Big Trucks On Their Way

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The Herald has a nice juxtaposition of a photo of truck accident blocking the motorway with the headline that BIG trucks are on their way.

Up to 5000 trucks will be eligible to carry heavier loads on public highways from next month.

The Government is basically giving the trucking industry a handout with this.  Road user charges weren’t increased in October for truck trailers, and the necessary reinforcement work for bridges etc. hasn’t been done. I’d also question the supposed economic benefits of $500m from the Ministry of Transport. Does this allow for the fact that trucking firms should pay 16 – 21% more per tonne in road user charges to use a bigger truck?

Oversize Trucks On Their Way

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It is official –  maximum truck weights have been increased by the Government to 52 tonnes under a permit regime as announced by the Government in a carefully timed press release just before Easter. What isn’t so clear is how the trucking industry will respond.  If they pay according to the current RUC regime, then trucking companies will pay between 16 and 21% more per tonne of freight.

Furthermore, councils are unlikely to approve permits for heavy trucks without compensation of the damage they cause.  In moving from 44 tonnes to 52 tonnes, trucks of the same axle configuration are also likely to cause twice as much damage to the roading network.

There needs to be stronger regulation of the trucking industry.  There are already too many accidents involving trucks, and the number of roll over accidents will only get worse as trucks get heavier.

Heavier trucks on their way

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Both Labour and the Greens are opposed to the Government’s introduction of 53-tonne trucks on our roads.

Regions say ‘no’ to Govt plan for big trucks

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The debate continues over the matter of allowing heavier trucks on New Zealand’s roads, with several regional transport committees stating their opposition to the move.   The Herald reports:

Regional transport committees for most of the upper North Island – including Auckland – oppose allowing heavier trucks on main roads despite Government and industry predictions of productivity gains and fuel savings.

Proposed rule changes to allow bigger trucks, subject to a new permitting system, were hotly debated by Auckland’s regional transport committee before members voted on Wednesday 10-5 to reject them.

Read the rest of this entry »

IPENZ on Heavy Trucks

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Tim Davin of the Institute of Professional Engineers comments in today’s Herald:

Who will bear the cost of heavier vehicles? Where will the costs of heavier vehicles fall, and will they improve New Zealand’s productivity?

We really don’t know the answers to these questions as the analysis has not been done…[more]

Quite. IPENZ members consist of 10,000 engineers throughout New Zealand.

Heavy Truck Bridge Impact Assessment

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NZTA have supplied us with a copy of their assessment of heavy trucks on State Highway bridges. The objective of the report is to identify bridges on freight routes that would require strengthening for higher mass limits provide an indication of costs.  The full copy (8Mb) is available here, but some key points are:

Whilst the current legal limit is a gross mass of 44 tonnes, most of the bridges on the state highway network and indeed the local road network were designed and constructed to carry lower loads. However, they continue to perform beyond expectations because of the conservative nature of some designs, material strengths that are higher than allowed for or ongoing upgrades and strengthening programmes.

306 state highway bridges would require strengthening, or detailed investigation and an estimated $85M would be required to fund the work over a period of several years.

Of these bridges, only 13 have already been included on the approved 09/12 Bridge Replacement and Upgrade Programme due to their current condition. The results have not been studied in detail to determine if any of the bridges should be replaced rather than strengthened.

In the South Island, no section of SH1 has bridges that can support 50 tonne trucks.  In the North Island Pokeno – Hamilton – Tirau has strong enough bridges, as does Rotorua – Taupo.  No section of SH1 from Taupo to Wellington has bridges that can support 50 tonne trucks.

It is hard to see how heavy trucks can be introduced to the state highway network without doing the necessary bridge strengthening work first.  The proposed implementation date of 2010 seems overly optimistic.


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