A major issue for the trucking industry is rearing its ugly head in the Melbourne Melting Pot which revolves around the routes in and out of the Port of Melbourne. Problems with the load carrying capacity of the Westgate Bridge is set to cause the whole, truck access though streets around the port, stew to boil up again, see tempers flare and a lot of emotive anti-truck slogans.
Issues caused by local residents in Yarraville, protesting about trucks going through their neighbourhood have been ongoing for many years. However, the whole thing had calmed down, to a certain extent, in recent times when VicRoads started to allow 77.5 tonne Super B-doubles and A-doubles to travel across the Westgate Bridge.
These higher productivity vehicles took some of the strain of moving the 8,000 plus containers which exit the port everyday. By allowing the heavier trucks onto the bridge, the number which travelled through Yarraville was controlled.
This reduction was needed as the pressure groups in the community had already got a curfew put in place. Trucks can only pass through areas like Francis Street between 6am and 8pm on weekdays, but not at school drop-off and pick-up times, so congestion was already an issue.
The whole schmozzle looks like it is going to set the trucking community against groups like the Maribynong Truck Action Group (MTAG) and will see protesters trying to stop trucks while the trucks simply hauling containers out of the port will be seen as provocative.
In fact, the problem here lies at the feet of the Victorian Government, and its short-sighted infrastructure policy. The heart of the issue likely to rekindle the fire is the fact the road engineers have decided the Westgate Bridge cannot take trucks heavier than 68.5 tonnes, B-doubles on HML, any more.
This bridge had $371 million in strengthening work carried out in 2011. Surely, the authorities knew the extension of Super Bs and A-doubles in the high productivity freight vehicles in the Victorian Government scheme were going to start using this essential freight route.
The Bolte Bridge, much newer than the Westgate, has been limited to 68.5 tonnes GCM as well. Were the VicRoads heads stuck so deeply in the sand they could not see a bigger freight transport task and higher truck GCMs coming.
Performance Based Standards and the Intelligent Access Program were already in development in order to create higher productivity trucks as the Bolte was being built and these heavier trucks were a reality when inadequate reinforcing was added to the Westgate.
Does this mean the MTAG are going to round on the Victorian Government and try to force them to take responsibility for skimping on infrastructure spending? No they are not. A typical message was put out by the group a couple of days ago on twitter, ‘This is the size of trucks on our residential streets now & they’re going to get bigger?! Seriously, how much more can this community take!’ It was accompanied by this picture:
Batten down the hatches it is going to be a rough ride! And the Victorian Government will be an onlooker tut-tutting about outrageous MTAG claims in the media, while granting them anti-truck concessions to keep favour in a volatile electorate.
At the same time, the truck ban lacks real credibility. Road engineers tell us the bridge can’t take the pressure caused by a 30 metre long vehicle weighing 75.5 tonnes using IAP to ensure no overloading. Meanwhile, the rules do not preclude the queueing traffic on the bridge to include three 8×4 concrete agitators, one behind the other, weighing eighty plus tonnes, and possibly overloaded, covering a distance of less than 30 metres.