Heavy Haulage

Heavy Haulage Conference lands in Brisbane 

This year’s annual Association conference spread its wings overseas for the first time in 12 years and it gave the opportunity to see the oversize industry first hand in Australia. By HHA NZ CEO, Jonathan Bhana-Thomson.

The 2018 HHA Conference in Brisbane included speakers from the Australian Heavy Vehicle Regulator, transport operators, as well as tours of truck and trailer manufacturers.

To accommodate the wider range of activities the conference was held over four days in mid-August with the first two days full with conference sessions followed by two days of industry site visits.

The conference kicked off on a balmy Sunday evening in the open-air bar in Rydges Hotel in South Bank, Brisbane. This was a great way for those people that had arrived in Brisbane to get together and renew old and make new friendships.

The conference sessions started on the Monday morning with the opening and scene setting from Chairman, Carl Baker.

Dean Bestwick, VP for Mack Trucks Australia was the opening speaker, and he ran through the history of Mack Trucks worldwide in the year 1900 with the first vehicle (a bus) and the first truck (a cab-over) in 1905.

A truck made for the First World War was nicknamed a “bulldog” due to its snub nose, which was adopted as the corporate symbol in 1922, and this eventually led to the first bulldog hood ornament designed in 1932.

In 1963, Mack Trucks Australia was formed with bases at Archerfield, Rocklea and in 2001 production moved to the Wacol facility. In 2013, fifty years of operation in Australia was celebrated.

Mid-morning the conference was scheduled to have a presentation from Sal Petroccitto, CEO of the Australian Heavy Vehicle Regulator. Unfortunately, Sal was called in a meeting with Government Ministers, so we were pleased to welcome John Gilbert, executive director Strategy and Stakeholder Relations with the Regulator.

One of the first comments that John made was that he congratulated the association on our organisation as there is no similar association in Australia. He wished that he had a group like the NZHHA to liaise with to discuss issues.

The HV Regulator in Australia has been in existence since 2013 and is responsible for the issuing of permits for the use of roads across the country – except for Western Australia. They issue 30,000 permits annually via its on-line portal, but they are reliant on individual roading managers giving their approval for travel, so this is where some of the reported delays in issuing permits over in Australia arise from.

In 2017 it issued the equivalent of the NZ Cat 1 and 2 blanket permits for smaller loads, which immediately removed the requirement for 20,000 permits from the system, but they still have differing requirements in different states to contend with, which remains an ongoing issue.

The rest of the morning was down to business with Mark McNeilly as the Heavy Haulage convenor presenting a discussion about the various work undertaken during the year, as well as current issues. These included:

  • The VAI increase to 1.5 on NZTA permits
  • Issues with local Council overweight permitting
  • Attendance and representation of the industry at NZTA AWALG meetings
  • Review of individual bridges with permit restrictions
  • A proactive meeting with West Coast councils and NZTA
  • The development of a draft Good Practice Guide
  • Requirements for engineers reports on certain Cat 4B loads.

There was also a presentation given by myself about various oversize issues, which included, the continuing restrictions on use of Toll Roads by oversize loads, the Communication, Consultation and Collaboration initiative with NZTA, and detailed discussion about the Omnibus Rule 2018, including the tail-gate opening and removal of the overweight permit condition about being off-route.

The afternoon session was commenced by John Sutton as the Pilot Group Convenor talking about the range of issues and projects for the pilot group this year, which included:

  • Class 2 Pilot Training proposal has been put to NZTA
  • A proposal for additional load pilot signage has been submitted to NZTA
  • The class 1 pilot training material has been reviewedso that it was current
  • The development of a Good Practice Guide for Piloting is underway.

The afternoon session continued with discussion led by Chairman Carl about the members’ interest and use of possible pre-trip briefing app. In addition, there was a discussion about the development of an industry video that would be used to promote the oversize industry and pilots. There was good support for both of these initiatives.

To close out the afternoon, there was a presentation from Ken Russell of Russell Transport, a large heavy haulage operator based near the Brisbane Port.

Ken was a straight and direct communicator and called the state of heavy hauling in Australia exactly as he saw it.

He is also a third generation operator and was quite vocal about the move to a national online permitting system, and delays that have been experienced in getting timely responses to the permit applications. The fact that each Aussie state has its own rules can have significant impact on the configuration that each transport load is delivered using.

The current system Ken said produced permits that are too short in duration, and the operator cannot re-use a previous permit approval to gain the same or similar permit over the same route. Aspects such as this were very frustrating.

This could be very relevant to the heavy haulage industry here, as NZTA permitting officials have been over in Brisbane looking at their permit system for possible use in New Zealand.

The first day at conference ended with the NZI|Lumley Dinner Cruise on the Kookaburra paddle boat on the river, which was a relaxing way to end the first day, cruising up and down the river looking at the city lights.

The second day

The second day of the Association’s recent conference in Brisbane commenced with a two-hour housemover’s group meeting. This was attended by a good group of housemovers who were updated about progress with various issues confronting the sector.

The main issue was the Environment Court appeal against the South Taranaki Council in regard to their high level of performance bond, which was unfortunately lost.

However, on the positive side, the appeal against the Manawatu Council was settled to the satisfaction of the Association by negotiation, as well as the Kapiti Coast Council and Opotiki Council being resolved through the submission process.

Other issues that were discussed were the requirement that one Council, in particular, was placing on the need to upgrade a dwelling when moving from one wind zone to another, and the onerous requirement for tedious on-going professional development for the Foundations Licence.

The Conference was fortunate to have present two NZTA speakers who travelled to Brisbane to present on overweight and over-dimension topics.

Barry Wright, the Agency’s lead advisor for structures, spoke on a range of different topics, and presented a summary of the change in direction for road funding caused by the Coalition Government that came into power last year. The focus for funding is more on safety and local road improvements, and decreasing amounts on major State Highway improvements.

Barry also updated delegates about the Weigh Right Project, which allows install weigh in motion at 12 sites nationwide, with three being operational before the end of this year. For any permitted load, an automated system will compare the weighed weight against permits held for the unit, and will screen these for an enforcement weighing.

For overweight permitted loads, this may mean that more transporters are pulled in for weighing if they have multiple overweight permits.

A key part the Weight Right project is a complete review and upgrade of the permitting process, and delegates were updated for what this meant for the oversize industry. This may mean a complete overall of the system with built-in automation and online applications. The association had already met with the project team to alert them to the particular requirements for the overweight and over-dimension industry.

Barry provided some details around funding that had been allocated for upgrading of bridges for HPMV capacity and noted that this work will also improve the capacity for overweight loads in the future.

Chris Watson, the agency’s policy advisor for Compliance Frameworks and Policies presented on a range of topics relating to over-dimension policy and transport.

The latest Omnibus Rule was out for consultation, and this contained a number of clarifications and minor changes for the over-dimension and pilot sector.

Specific topics included the user of jinkers, travel on the Auckland Motorway, and load pilot signage.

The association had submitted a proposal to NZTA earlier in the year to approve some additional load pilot signage, and Chris commented that this was currently being worked through by the policy people within the Agency.

Chris also commented that the agency was considering the proposal put to them by the association for a revision and upgrade of the Class 2 load pilot test. It appears that the agency is supportive of the proposal, but there are a number of processes internal to NZTA for them to proceed with the proposal.

The travel of oversize loads on Toll Roads is a contentious issue, and Chris advised that the Association had been proactive in bringing this to the attention of the Agency. He confirmed that the Agency was looking to open Toll Roads to easier access for oversize loads, but the controls, particularly in terms of travel times had not yet been agreed.

The other main topics that Chris discussed were the requirements for and details of engineers reports for Cat 4B loads. Following questions raised by the association, the Agency was looking at reviewing the criteria and the requirements for these reports.

In the afternoon session, Roger Garcia from the Australian National Heavy Vehicle Regulator gave a presentation about the Heavy Vehicle Permit Portal that he oversees. This was highly relevant to delegates as it transpired that NZTA staff had recently visited the Regulator to view and analyse the Permit Portal process for possible use here.

Roger took delegates through the permit application process and illustrated the approval system from road managers with a live application from the local operator.

Following this, Mike Alsford from MITO outlined to delegates the recent work that had been carried out by Peter Jacob and myself to review the various heavy haulage driver unit standards, and how this would fit into a new NZ Certificate for Specialist Heavy Vehicle Driver that was currently being worked on.


In the final session, the  Annual General Meeting of the Association was held. Carl Baker chaired the meeting, in which he presented the Chairman’s Report; the Annual Accounts to 30 June 2018 were presented and accepted, and the voting for the various Board positions was held.

The following people were voted to the following positions:

Chairman: Carl Baker

Heavy Haulage Representative: Mark McNeilly

Housemover Representative: Greig Running

Load Pilot Representative: Peter Bell

General Board Members: Colin James, Tina Ware and Paul Britton.

The AGM wrapped up the end of the conference sessions, and this one free evening for delegates meant that they were free to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the South Bank area in Brisbane.

Wednesday site and industry visit

 One of the main motivations for having an off-shore conference was to see places and visit sites that are simply not present in NZ. There were two full days of site visits on the Wednesday and Thursday with two bus-loads visiting the same locations on the first day, and then separate heavy haulage and housemover trips on the Thursday.

On the Wednesday site visit, delegates departed from Rydges South Bank and travelled to the Wacol area south-west of the Brisbane CBD.

One bus group headed for the Mack/Volvo Plant, while the other went to the Drake Trailers factory. After touring each of the facilities, the groups swapped so that by midday each group had seen both. At the Mack plant, it was fantastic to see the whole production line all the way from the basic chassis rails all the way through to the finished product including the testing facility.

At the Drake Factory, it was possible to see many different types of trailer in the middle of production, as well as their robotic welding machine and the painting booth. In addition, the impressive collectable model shop had many members reaching for their credit cards.

For the afternoon, both buses headed to the Queensland Transport Museum where the local caterers put on a fantastic lunch following by a visit to the museum with a variety of different vehicles and trucks on display.

The day was rounded off with a stop at the adjacent “Lights on the Hill” Trucking Memorial (pictured) before heading back to the Hotel for the Mack Trucks Dinner & Awards Evening.

 Award night

At this evening event held in the Rooftop Room overlooking the Wheel of Brisbane, a number of deserved recipients were recognised. Warwick Bell was made a Life Member of the Association for his services to the Association as a previous Chairman and Board Member as well as many other contributions. Murray Sowerby of Motor Truck Distributors was awarded Honorary Membership for his services as an Associate member of the Association. The Chairman’s Award was presented by Carl Baker to Tina Ware for all her great work promoting the oversize industry in the Manawatu region.

Thursday site visit

During the Thursday site visits, delegates departed from Rydges Hotel and headed directly to Russell Transport’s yard at Lytton near the Port. Russell Transport was very generous with their staff time and escorted small groups around the yard which had a number of interesting specialised trailers in the yard. After an hour on site, the group headed off to the tour around the Port of Brisbane.

The tour commenced with a bird’s eye view from the top of the Port Office building which included the stockpiling of the windfarm components for a large windfarm with the components starting to be transported within a day or two. The 1.5 hour trip was led by a very knowledgeable guide, and the various bulk and roll-on roll-off freight areas were well described.

In the afternoon the group headed to visit to Mactrans Heavy Haulage, and saw two commemorative Mack Prime movers parked by the office, plus their 50th Year Commemorative Mack Titan which came into the yard from a job.

The afternoon was finished off with a tour around the XXXX Brewery in the Milton area close to the City.

For the housemover group, they headed north for over an hour’s drive to Queensland Housemovers at Caboolture, where the group got a very hospitable welcome from John Wright and his team.

From there the group travelled south to David Wright House Removers at Burpengary East where there was a walk around their yard which led on to a lunch at a local venue.

In the afternoon, the group travelled south again to Mackay and sons Housemovers at Narangba.

The housemover group enjoyed visiting the various housemovers to the north of Brisbane, but did take away, that in terms of permits and logistics, that here in NZ we have it far easier.

For both groups the day ended up with a combined final dinner for all delegates at a local restaurant in the centre of South Bank, thus finishing off the 2018 conference.

It was a relaxing way to end what had a been a busy four days based in the centre of Brisbane but with many opportunities to visit unique locations to see and discuss the state of heavy haulage and oversize in Australia.  .


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