The announcement of a change to the rules governing the transport of hay and supplies in rural areas shows us it takes a major drought to get some common sense on trucking regulations. If it is now OK to load hay on a trailer up to 2.83 metres wide in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, why wasn’t it the case three weeks ago?
Yes, this is a great initiative, enacted quickly and effectively. It will make the massive efforts being made to get fodder to drought stricken areas easier to manage and improve the supply chain of fodder to those who desperately need it.
The change shows how easily a change can be made. The Federal Government were lobbied by the trucking industry, through the Australian Trucking Association and others, and the State Governments all fell into line. The need to help drought affected farmers is inescapable, the situation is desperate, so something needed to be done, it makes sense.
Of course there are plenty of pre-conditions and hoops the operators have to jump through, but there is no payment and no permit required once the conditions have been met. The required notices have been published and all of the bureaucratic hurdles to getting fodder to farmers in slightly ‘oversize’ loads have been taken away.
So it’s simple, when delivering to drought declared areas, most of NSW and very large swathe of Queensland plus other areas in other states ( see links at the foot of this story), you can run at 2.83 metres wide and 4.6 metres high.
The different states have agreed to waive their current regulations in the light of the farmers’ plight. The rules state a number of different heights and widths are the maximum allowable in each state. Normally, the maximum width for loads of hay in South Australia is 2.7 metres. In Queensland that maximum width is 2.5 metres. The maximum height for a load of hay in the states affected varies between 4.3 and 4.6 metres.
Is the reason for these variations in the rules which apply when we aren’t in drought, because the safety conditions vary from state to state? Are the roads in Queensland that much narrower than those in South Australia? Is there plenty of room on NSW roads to ensure the safe transit of 2.83 metre high loads?
The answer to these questions is, of course, no. The reasons for these variations is simply the authorities in each state picked a number and have stuck with it. The difference between Queensland and NSW roads is not so great that a load width difference of 33 millimetres is going to make a significant difference to road safety outcomes.
We have been dealing with an arbitrary difference in rules due, simply, to the federal system and the states’ autonomy in rule making. Isn’t it about time this sort of variation was kicked into the bin?
If there is any rationality in the corridors of power in all of our road agencies around the nation, these consistent rules should remain in place, even after the drought has ended. There is no logical reason to return to the old rules.
Hauling these difficult to handle loads with inconsistent sizes is hard enough for the trucking operator, bringing back antiquated state-to-state differences, just to suit the semantics of rules written in the past, would not be right. If it is OK for hay to be loaded out to 2.83 metres today, it is safe to load it this way even after the drought finally breaks.
Where are the drought declared areas?
Click on the links below to find out.