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Trucks to trial heavier loads

Trucks to trial heavier loads

Joint media statement by Hon Jim Anderton, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries & Hon Annette King, Minister of Transport.

A project trialling a controlled permit system allowing trucks to carry heavier loads was launched in Canterbury today.

The trial was launched at participating company Canterbury Waste Services Ltd by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton on behalf of Transport Minister Annette King.

Ms King said selected road transport companies from across industry will take part in the six-month project, carrying loads of up to 50 tonnes, rather than the 44 tonnes currently legally allowed.

"If New Zealand's economy is to continue to grow, efficiency in moving goods on the road needs to improve. New Zealand's freight task is projected to double by 2020. Already, 66 percent of all freight moving around the country is carried on our roads. With these kinds of projections soon to be a reality, it is clear now is the time to find innovative ways to optimise our transport system," she said.

"It is important, however, to remember that these vehicles will not be any bigger, only heavier. Many vehicles operating on New Zealand roads already have the capacity to carry more than 44 tonnes. This permit system can improve road freight efficiency by consolidating loads and reducing the number of vehicle movements required to distribute the same amount of freight."

Mr Anderton spoke about the Government's sustainable transport objectives at today's launch. "While increasing the productivity of our roads is important, it is only one of a number of factors that will give us a transport system that is accessible, sustainable and offers value for money.

"These trials will therefore be an important step towards working hand in hand with the Government's initiatives to support sea and rail freight objectives."

During the trials emissions, noise, vibrations, safety and road maintenance implications will also be assessed.

Questions and answers

What is the current weight limit for vehicles on New Zealand roads?

The current gross weight limits depend on the number and layout of the axles. The heaviest permitted weight without a special permit is 44 tonnes.

Why is work on a controlled permit system that will allow increased size and weight of heavy haulage loads being done?

The projected doubling of the road freight task (total tonnage multiplied by total distance) by about 2020 means freight needs to be moved as efficiently as possible. An increase in the limits for heavy vehicles is expected to improve vehicle productivity by consolidating loads and reducing the number of vehicle movements required to distribute that freight. This in turn will reduce fuel consumption, reduce emissions, improve safety and overall will contribute positively to the Government's sustainability objectives.

Does this mean that there will be bigger trucks on the roads?

No. There will not be any bigger trucks on the roads. The trucks carrying heavier loads will not be any wider or higher than trucks on the road at present. In fact they will generally be the same trucks --- they will just be using existing capacity more fully.

Will the vehicles carrying heavier loads be as safe?

Yes. The vehicles in the trials will meet all current safety standards, and any vehicle issued with a permit to operate at a heavier weight is required to have a specific brake check to ensure its braking system is appropriate to the load being carried, before a permit is issued.

Are there restrictions on what roads/routes the heavier vehicles can travel? (i.e. near schools, quiet country roads, narrow windy roads etc.)

Trial vehicles will be restricted to specific routes which will be strictly enforced. Roads and routes deemed inappropriate for the trials will not be used. All routes will be assessed on the overweight permit criteria to ensure that the road infrastructure, in particular bridges, can cope with the heavier vehicles.

What would a controlled permit system for heavy vehicles achieve?

Improved heavy vehicle productivity under the right conditions could enable a given amount of freight to be carried on fewer trucks. This would help to reduce road congestion, operating costs and vehicle emissions. A controlled permit system would enable the impacts of heavier vehicles to be properly managed by taking into account roading costs, safety and environmental impacts, and any impacts on other freight modes.

Why not provide open access for road transport operators?

Some industry participants want an across-the-board increase from the present 44 tonne limit. This is likely to benefit some stakeholders but could impose significant costs on others, in particular local road controlling authorities.

How do you know the controlled permit system will work?

The heavy vehicle trial project is designed to assess the effectiveness of a controlled permit system. During the trials, operators will be permitted to carry heavier loads under strict conditions. Information from the trials will be collected and analysed to assess productivity, environmental and safety impacts.

How will the permit system be policed?

The trials will be monitored by the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit of the NZ Police as part of its normal road policing function. This would continue to be the case under any longer term controlled permit system. In addition, the Ministry will be collecting detailed information to enable it to evaluate the trials.

Heavier loads will mean extra road maintenance costs: who will pay?

The Government is very conscious of the implications of extra road maintenance costs and will continue to work closely with Transit and local authorities on this. In principle the costs of extra road maintenance will be paid by those who benefit from using heavier trucks. Consideration will be given to building extra operating costs associated with controlled permits into the system. The higher Road User Charges (RUC) collected from heavier vehicles also reflects the increased wear and tear that they cause. A key challenge will be find a mechanism to ensure that the relevant authority is compensated appropriately for their additional maintenance costs.

The Government is proposing legislation that would allow for the introduction of an Emissions Trading Scheme in the future which will include reducing transport greenhouse gases. Will the heavier loads increase emissions?

Heavier vehicles use more fuel than lighter vehicles, but the difference is small. It will usually be outweighed by the greater load on each truck and the consequent lower trip numbers, bringing a useful overall reduction in emissions. During the trials emissions from both heavier and existing trucks will be measured to assess if there is any measurable or significant difference in emissions.

What about moving more freight by rail and coastal shipping?

The new permit system will take the National Rail Strategy to 2015 and the 'Sea Change' strategy into account. The current trials will not compete directly with rail or coastal shipping services. This trial will be evaluated and appropriate measures incorporated into any longer term controlled permit system.

Will the work be done by the Ministry of Transport alone?

Work is being led by the Ministry of Transport in association with Land Transport New Zealand, Transit, and Local Government New Zealand. Other key government agencies will be consulted at the appropriate times. Road controlling authorities also have a significant interest in the programme, particularly in the area of road and bridge maintenance costs, so they will also be closely consulted. In addition representatives of the freight sector and major transport users will be involved throughout the work programme.

What trucking companies are taking part in the trials?

Trial participants will represent a wide cross-section of New Zealand's freight sector to ensure results reflect the country's current freight environment. In the interests of the trials being performed without undue interference most trial participants will remain confidential.

What was the selection criteria for trial participants? Why have the current trial participants been chosen?

The current participants are largely those identified in the 2007 survey undertaken by consultants on behalf of the Ministry of Transport. The study identified a wide range of possible trial participants from across New Zealand's road transport sector and this has formed the basis of the initial development of the trials. The project is not closed to other participants. Anyone wishing to be considered for participation in the trials should contact the Project Manager at the Ministry of Transport.

How long will the work take?

The overall project is expected to take about two years. This will include the trial period of about six months (from May to December), public consultation and the development and implementation of any controlled permit system.

What kind of loads will these trucks be carrying?

At present there are no plans to restrict the types of load that heavier trucks may carry. During the trials as many of the key transport users as possible will be used on a wide range of routes across New Zealand.

Will these trucks still be able to go on the ferry?

Yes, heavier trucks will be able to use ferries – subject to the ferry carrying capability.

Will they fit tunnels and over bridges?

Heavier trucks will be no higher or wider than existing trucks. Some bridges and tunnels already have height and/or weight restrictions and these will continue to apply. However, most bridges on state highways and local roads are already adequate for heavier trucks. In the longer term other bridges could be strengthened, replaced or closed to heavier trucks.

What will happen to the present system of overweight permits?

If a specific controlled permit system is introduced the existing overweight system will continue to be used for one off trips for individual loads. Any new system will be used to permit multiple and ongoing trips by nominated trucks operating a particular load and route or area.


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