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

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.

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