Moving forward in heavy haulage

This article first appeared in Contractor Perspectives 2017.

Heavy haulage is an industry sector that accepts continuous change as the norm and this year will be no different. Jonathan Bhana-Thomson, chief executive, NZ Heavy Haulage Association.

THE NEW YEAR brings a new set of regulatory requirements for transport operators moving oversize loads, which simply continues the theme of continuous change that industry members have come to recognise as normal.

The past 12 months have seen a number of changes both directly with transport policy as well as wider regulatory changes that mean that transport operators have to strive to stay up to date with new and updated rules in their operating environment.

The role that industry associations play in keeping members up to date is important to ensure that industry members are engaged with the consultation process as well as remaining on top of compliance.

Convention appears to show that any document that NZTA is involved with needs to have an acronym as the title needs to encompass all the right terms, hence we have the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule, which came into force nearly 15 years ago.

The key for the oversize sector is that the Rule contains the specific provisions for why, where and how overdimension and overweight loads can travel on NZ’s roads.

While there have been minor adjustments, the VDAM Rule Review was the first opportunity for this sector to have input into a major revision of the Rule. So for the past two years the Association and its members have been engaged in a process to enable enhancements that the industry wanted to see.

Essentially the provisions in the Rule for oversize loads have been well established for many years – some of the provisions can be traced back to 1978 – but it was with the future in mind that the Association wanted to advance the rules.

So the past 12 months in particular have been spent intensively working on the provisions of the current Rule as well as developing our own ideas about how the Rule could be improved to result in operational and safety benefits for the industry.

This has included two members meetings earlier in the year to canvass ideas and feedback, then when the ‘Yellow Draft’ of the Rule was produced, a series of teleconferences to talk through the details of the proposals. Finally, five face-to-face meetings with NZTA project staff discussed the concerns and ideas of the Association.

This has resulted in a new Rule, finally gazetted in December 2016 that has a number of enhancements sought by the Association, as well as some concessions for extra compliance requirements, but which should result in better safety outcomes.

This year will see the application of the new Rule provisions from 1 February and the Association will be assisting both NZTA and members to implement the new provisions in the Rule. We expect that there will some operational aspects that will take some time to bed down and we intend to be at the forefront of ensuring that these are resolved efficiently and effectively.

Health and safety
Last year saw the Health and Safety at Work Act come into force which brought a new focus on safety practices in the oversize transport industry. This combined with a Coroner’s Report and two accidents within the past 18 months caused the industry to take a good hard look at itself.

While we believe that there was nothing systemically wrong that caused these accidents, the members of the oversize industry are proactive and are always looking at ways to make the transport of large loads on the nation’s roads safer.

This provided motivation for industry members to trial a range of new warning signage and types of displays, while other members have been trialling distinctive marking schemes for load pilots. Our aim is to take forward our learnings from these industry trials with the option for NZTA approval in the new VDAM Rule to provide warnings that keep the industry ahead of the game.

The other area of work that has been scoped and planned in recent months is the development of Good Practice Guides for the three main sectors of the oversize industry, namely Heavy Haulage Transportation, Transport of Buildings, and Load Piloting.

The aim is to provide guidance to our members about what good practice is for the transporting and piloting of large loads. These Guides will pull together legislative requirements alongside technical specifications, with good practices detailed to provide a comprehensive document for members to reference in their Health and Safety Policy documents.

The documents will not undertake the responsibility for individual companies to identify and mitigate hazards, but will provide a framework as well as detail industry methods for mitigating various risk-related situations that members can refer to.

It is expected that these Guides will form a major part of the work programme for the forthcoming months.

One of our key aims is to maintain and proactively identify opportunities for the oversize route network. While responding to the many requests to provide feedback about proposed roading projects underway, we also this year want to be proactive to identify those pinch points on the network to lobby to improve the restriction at these locations.

The way to achieve this includes involving the input of members and this year we have refreshed the range of industry area representatives to provide that local knowledge and on-the-ground feedback.

Put together, all these actions sum up to represent that as an industry and as an industry group we are seeking out opportunities to keep ahead of the game and keep on top of an ever-changing environment.

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