There is often a disparity between what the road authorities say at a policy level and the reality on the road, when truckie meets road manager or roadside enforcement. This was illustrated at the Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association conference in Griffith.
As is often the case on these occasions, the Roads and Maritime Services come up with well thought out and sensible solutions to problems which are designed to indicate the organisation is going to be flexible and supportive of the trucking industry.
When it comes to question time after the presentation, the comments offer a litany of obstruction either from local councils or from the RMS itself. Suggesting a communication problem with many authorities, who are tasked with both granting access, controlling and improving freight transport on the roads of NSW.
“It’s great to see a chart about the high productivity vehicles but concentrating on 30 m A-double as the future truck of choice is very problematic,” said Kel Baxter from Baxter Transport. “It should help our business, running tippers, but when I look at the amount of freight on the Newell Highway, there are sections where you can use road trains with bogey dollies and triaxle dollies.
“NSW is a through State, and I see the efficiencies which could be gained by running triaxle dollies through to Goondiwindi in Queensland. There are some issues with things like railway crossings, but I think we could work through the bottle necks with better signage and some speed restrictions.
“Going a little further west, we could have a route for AB-triples from Tocumwal to Goondiwindi. There are sections of the Newell which are ready for the AB-triple. The idea of putting PBS forward as the answer for these solutions is flawed. Most PBS trucks run in small specific areas on a day-to-day basis. Moving stock and grain is different, routes change all the time and are over a very long-distance.
“When you really look for productivity gains, we as a company, spend all of our time trying to get access and it is a very frustrating process. There are such great opportunities, if we can get it right, we need to move forward on this.”
In reply, Susie Mackay, RMS Director Freight Roads and Maritime Services continued with her supportive theme, but without committing to the kinds of things the audience were asking for.
“For the Newell Highway we would like to go forward with 36.5 metre A-doubles, and we are agnostic about whether they are PBS or not,” said Susie. “We are doing work at the moment with some vehicles to see how they perform, looking at bogey dollies and triaxle dollies.”
There are a number of issues which the RMS bring up every time longer trucks on the Newell are mentioned. One is the two railways crossings in Parkes, which can be solved with some upgrades, but it is a very slow process. There is a project underway but it is still very early on. An interim solution may make improvements to get 30 metre A-double access, but doing this may mean full access for 36.5 metre combination may take a lot longer.
The RMS have commissioned the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) to do an analysis of the Newell to work out which roads are suited to which combinations, looking at whether the NSW ‘Modern’ road trains can use the road or whether A-doubles or the tradition road train will be allowed.
The report is likely to support the agenda laid out by the RMS, who have a history of pushing their own state combinations rather than those accepted in other states from which many of the vehicles are likely to come.