By Jonathan Bhana-Thomson, CEO, Heavy Haulage Association.
The NZTA says this road maintenance season will be the busiest ever on the State Highway network and this, along with infrastructure upgrades, will mean a dramatic increase in road works sites and traffic interruptions.
There are also changes in regards to roading work site safety and an increase in vehicle detours and closures that will place challenges for oversize loads transported around our networks.
The largest oversize loads (such as houses) are transported at night (or certainly not at peak times), which coincides with the same time that major road construction is also programmed, which can make for challenging on-road situations for both construction crews and oversize transport operators.
However, there are some steps that can be undertaken to make the job run a bit smoother for both parties.
Oversize Loads are typically transported on major State Highways and most arterials in the bigger cities. If there is road construction planned on these routes, then the work programme and traffic management controls should include any oversize loads also planned to move through those work sites.
This includes consideration to lane widths, detours and road closures. As most transporters are at least 3.1 metres in width – if traffic lanes have to be narrower than this, then there must be crews onsite to assist with the movement of cones. Often local detour routes bypassing work sites will not be suitable for oversize loads, so planning for oversize loads is essential to avoid a problem. If the work programme involves closures then there needs to be early communication of this to the heavy haulage operator and consideration of viable alternate routes.
Roading contractors need to communicate in a reasonable timeframe to heavy haulage road users about their works site. For the oversize transport industry, this needs to be sooner than for other road users, as the bigger transport work is planned many weeks in advance.
A useful tool for this is the NZTA Freight Register website which records longer term road projects that will have an impact on freight operations. Contractors can provide contact details on this site so operators can contact them to discuss any potential issues ahead of time. Contact the local NZTA journey manager if you want to find out more about this important service.
Engagement with industry transport associations, such as the NZ Heavy Haulage Association, will enable timely distribution of information about the impact of works on transport routes and give heavy haulage operators the opportunity to contact the project site in advance of a large load turning up at site, and discuss how this will be managed.
Working together on-road
When an operator comes across a road works site that they were unaware of, or even one where contact was made beforehand, then the transport team and the road works crew need to work together to get the load through the site efficiently and safely.
This may mean moving traffic management equipment, so the TM crew needs to be prepared to work with the load pilots accompanying the load. A potential issue is the placement of large ‘warning signs’ set up as gateway signs. These will be located at the start of the site where they create a pinch point for the oversize loads.
Another issue is unattended worksites where heavy haulage operators have to manage the traffic management equipment themselves. It is not uncommon for a pilot at the rear of the load to have to reinstate temporary signage when completely unaware of how the signage was arranged in the first place. So, please make unattended sites as simple as possible, remove unnecessary clutter, and locate any equipment that could restrict the travel of oversize loads through the site.
With these straightforward requirements, the association believes that it is possible for the transport of oversize loads, and the numerous road construction projects to work together to perform their respective tasks.
And the good news is that our members are finding industry is working together more and more for a successful outcome at getting oversize loads through roading worksites – and we give a big thumbs up for this. Please keep it up.