The Southland District Council isn't in a position to play King Canute in the face of the Government's agenda to use bigger rigs to move freight more efficiently on our roads.
These brutes are coming, like it or not. The practical questions have more to do with how adeptly we handle them, and how effectively we apply pressure to ensure we are properly resourced to do so.
The New Zealand Transport Association has allowed 50MAX trucks on our highways, so they already have spinal access the length of the country.
In the name of economic development the district council and other councils are already under mounting pressure to take a more permissive approach to allowing not just these newcomer trucks, but the already rising numbers of so-called "high-productivity motor vehicles" (over the current Class 1 weight limit) to travel more widely within district roading networks.
The very notion of having fewer trucks moving more freight has obvious benefits, but also pitfalls.
The case for the 50MAX rigs is that in terms of roading wear and tear per tonne moved, they are an improvement. They are designed to limit any additional roading damage by increasing the number of axles to nine.
As things stand, local authorities can decide whether to approve these for parts of their district networks, though the district council seems to interpret this as a Godfather-style offer that cannot be refused, at least in the long-term. Eventually, it believes, the choice is likely to be removed.
The district council also believes the real impact of HPMVs on its network remains to be seen; so of course it is concerned about the impact on its ratepayers pockets as well as the standard of their local roads.
It's not just about the weight and the number of axle on the big trucks. Concentrated loads on some of those axles causes much more damage than having the weight more evenly spread over all of them. Factor also the tyres. Dual tyres cause less damage than super singles. The quality of suspension, and the sheer frequency of heavy loads all matter.
So does the standard of road pavement - in fact that's vital, considering the tough prioritisation already required for pressured district roading budgets.
To its credit the district council has already linked with infrastructure management consulting firm MWH Global to develop a model in which to calculate which routes must be maintained to a high level, and which routes have to have secondary status.
This must, of course, reflect not only economic growth imperatives, but also resourcing practicalities. As new Southland District Mayor Gary Tong has made clear, the council has the task of ensuring the Government is aware of the need to connect economic development priorities with road-funding resources.
Alongside that political battle, the council will, during the next six months, be trying to find a balanced reaction to the wider economic benefits and the potential for its roads and ratepayers to take a hiding because of state funding inadequacies.
The district council does acknowledge that potentially 20 per cent of its sealed network, if maintained to a sufficient standard, could take care of perhaps 80 per cent of HPMV demand. As for the rest, the council is considering the possible use of hubs, to which smaller loads of say milk, logs or stock might be sent for consolidation
- © Fairfax NZ News
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