CommentHeavy Haulage

Oversize on motorways and tolled roads

By JONATHAN BHANA-THOMSON, chief executive, NZ Heavy Haulage Association

I WANT TO PUT the case for allowing oversize loads onto the motorways and toll roads around New Zealand.

The use of the most well-designed roads, with the best alignments, increased safety features, and the least vulnerable users has restricted use by loads that are overdimension and/or overweight.

From the NZ Heavy Haulage Association’s perspective there are a number of reasons why new and existing roads should be opened up further to the biggest loads on the nation’s roads.

The rationale for transporting large freight loads is clear.

Bigger is better

Being able to use large plant and equipment on construction, manufacturing or development sites simply enables scales of efficiency and advanced timelines for getting the job underway or completed more quickly.

Pre-fabrication enables Just in Time efficiency

The construction of large items off-site and delivery at the time required enables more efficient use of resources and advanced construction techniques.

Relocation is beneficial

Whether it is the re-use of existing homes, new transportable homes built off-site, emergency housing in times of crisis, or the expansion of schools with relocatable classrooms, the movement of buildings is an efficient use of resources.

The use of motorways and toll roads is restricted under the current transportation rules. The association would like to see more regular and effective use of the roads for the transport of large loads.

  1. Divided roadways

All motorways, expressways and toll roads have a barrier down the middle that divides traffic travelling in opposite directions. For oversize loads that regularly take up more than their own lane, and often take up the whole road, being able to travel on roads that do not have oncoming traffic, is quite simply safer.

Often with motorways, and definitely with toll roads, that have to provide a ‘free’ alternative route, the road that oversize loads have to travel one is not divided, is often through built up areas, can have significant flows of oncoming traffic, and has traffic merging from side roads.

While oversize loads have to travel at off-peak times for areas they are travelling through, there are increasing numbers of the travelling public whose safety needs to be managed by the load pilots and load drivers.

When on a divided road there is only minor risk to traffic travelling in the same direction, and the load pilots employ specific traffic management procedures to ensure that the following traffic is not put at risk and allowed to pass the wide load when it is safe to do so.

  1. Reduced restrictive infrastructure

Motorways have to meet certain criteria in order to qualify as such. They need to allow certain speeds to be travelled, do not have traffic signals or other design features that hold up the movement of traffic, and need to meet certain design envelope criteria that allow for the transport of oversize loads.

One of the Association’s key lobbying areas is the design of these major roads, and we have been successful in ensuring that motorways built in recent years do not have restrictive dimension envelopes. Often local alternative roads have restrictive roading infrastructure such as light poles, traffic signals, pedestrian islands, and other signage.

This means that oversize loads have to travel slowly or stop while infrastructure is removed (and replaced) to allow oversize loads through the area.

Management of other road users while loads are slowly negotiating through restrictive areas is a key focus for loads pilots that accompany the load, but this would be far less of an issue on motorways and toll roads.

  1. Lack of vulnerable road users

Motorways are for the transport of large numbers of cars and commercial vehicles and as such vulnerable roads users such as cyclists and pedestrians are required to use other routes.

The association supports the construction of proper alternative facilities for these road users as it isolates these roads users from risk. Using motorways – rather than local roads – for oversize loads helps to access this safety benefit.

  1. Enables travel at good road speed

The association is keen reduce the exposure risk of large loads on the road. This means that the shorter the period that oversize loads are on the road, the lower the risk profile.

Invariably a transporter will be able to move along a motorway or toll road at a more efficient speed than along a more restrictive alternative route.

Targeting toll roads

The association is targeting toll roads for oversize loads and specifically the Tauranga Eastern Link (TEL) and the Northern Gateway Motorway, including the Johnstone Hill Tunnels north of Auckland.

The current rules only allow for transport of oversize loads with special permission and at times applications have been turned down if the load can fit along the alternative free route. In the case of the TEL the alternative route through Te Puke normally takes 35 minutes, whereas along the TEL, it is less than 15 minutes on a much safer route.

The association says: Come-on NZTA, make it easier and safer for oversize load transport companies and free up the over-zealous bureaucracy around the use of current (and future) motorways and toll roads.

This article first appeared in Contractor August 2017.

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