More productive vehicles earmarked for Victorian roads

Longer heavy vehicles will be allowed to use more of the road network to transport goods to consumers under a new strategy designed to reduce freight costs and lower the number of trucks on Victorian roads, according to Minister for Roads Terry Mulder.

Mr Mulder said the High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV’s) policy would mark a new era in transport with the benefits expected to flow on to all Victorians.

“Allowing transport companies to use longer High Productivity Freight Vehicles will ensure great productivity gains for the industry,” Mr Mulder said.

“Moving more freight with fewer vehicles is imperative because we know the amount of freight is set to double in the coming years.”

“Currently, 26 metre B-double trucks cannot carry two 40 foot containers, which is increasingly becoming the standard size for shipping containers. At 30 metres in length the HPFV’s will be able to transport two 40 foot containers.

“What this means is that instead of six B-doubles, only four HPFV’s are needed to carry the same amount of freight, effectively reducing the growth in the number of heavy vehicles by one-third.”

“The longer vehicle will only be given access to high-quality sections of freeway and highway to more efficiently move freight to customers. They won’t be able to exceed 68.5 tonnes so they will be ideal for moving light-weight bulky goods between the ports, rail terminals and key regional centres.

“Importantly, we are going to introduce significant safety measures to accompany these vehicles, including a 90 kilometre per hour speed limit or lower, GPS tracking and other stringent controls on weight, routes and vehicle safety features,” Mr Mulder said.

Under the HPFV policy, 30 metre HPFVs will be allowed to operate on the Monash Freeway, CityLink, EastLink, the Ring Road and the West Gate Freeway.

In regional Victoria, HPFV’s up to 36.5 metres in length will be able to transport goods from the Port of Melbourne through the West Gate to Princes Highway West to Geelong; the Western Freeway to Ballarat; the Calder Freeway to Bendigo; the Hume Freeway to Wodonga; Princes Highway East to
Traralgon and the Westernport Highway to the Port of Hastings.

Mr Mulder said some longer freight vehicles are already safely moving goods on certain sections of the road network, but their economic benefits could only be realised if they were given access to more of the network.

However, Mr Mulder said, this access needed to be balanced against the safety of other road users.

“We need to have the right vehicles on the right roads and ensure that the HPFV’s are operating in areas which are appropriate,” Mr Mulder said.

As part of the permit conditions for the High Productivity Freight Vehicles, they will be restricted to 90 kilometres per hour on open roads, with GPS tracking used to ensure they adhere to the reduce speed limit and the routes.

“I’ve asked VicRoads to monitor the impacts of the lower operating speed for HPFV’s to determine how heavy vehicle speeds can be best managed in the future,” Mr Mulder said.

Among the other safety measures to be rolled out as part of the new policy:

  • GPS tracking of vehicles (through the Intelligent Access Program);
  • Compliance with the national Performance-Based Standards (PBS) Scheme;
  • Vehicle safety features including ABS on all axles;
  • Front and rear signage to identify HPFV vehicles; and
  • Stringent permit conditions.

Research being undertaken for Austroads, based on crash data since 2005, has found that the increase in B-doubles and B-triples has resulted in a reduction in major crashes involving these vehicles. The same research showed that combinations that comply with the safety measures in the
national PBS Scheme are up to three times safer than standard heavy vehicles.

Mr Mulder also announced that the right hand lane restriction for trucks would continue on the Eastern Freeway and Princes Highway West, but there would be no extension of the ban to other roads.

“A study of the current right hand lane restrictions has found they are working well on the Eastern Freeway and Princes Highway,” Mr Mulder said.

“However, VicRoads’ traffic modelling suggests that introducing similar restrictions on the Monash Freeway would add to congestion and have very limited safety benefit.

“Longer vehicles mean moving more with less, which is crucial for the future of industry and also road congestion and road safety.

“This new policy balances the needs of all road users for the best possible outcome,” Mr Mulder said.

VicRoads, in conjunction with the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Victorian Transport Association and the Australian Road Research Board, have developed an online tool for Victorian councils to calculate what size trucks are permitted to drive on which roads.

To download a copy of the VicRoads Moving More With Less Report visit http://db.tt/9zFdBmpD

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