Hundreds more big rigs put road network to test

Massive 53-tonne trucks are rumbling along South Canterbury's state highway network in their hundreds - and their number is increasing dramatically each year.

Figures for the Canterbury region, provided by the New Zealand Transport Agency to the Herald, reveal there were 587 permits issued for 53-tonne High Performance Motor Vehicles (HPMVs) in the past year, compared to 225 in 2012 and 81 in 2011. NZTA was unable to provide figures specifically for South Canterbury.

In 2010, the Government amended road transport legislation to allow for permits for HPVs for loads exceeding 44 tonnes, or vehicles exceeding the current maximum dimension limits, or both.

Hilton Haulage director Peter McAuley said the changes had been good news for the region.

"It leads to greater productivity and fewer vehicles on the road in the long run," he said.

"Dairy is a big user, when you're transporting tens of thousands of litres of milk per day from Clandeboye or the other major dairy factories, fewer trips will save money."

Mr McAuley said it was possible for a 50-tonne vehicle to cause no more pressure or damage to the road than a 44-tonne vehicle, with the help of a modified design and additional axle.

"We've been educating councils about this development. It will help them work out how much they really need to spend on the roading network," Mr McAuley said.

"The Canterbury network is pretty good for larger haulage vehicles, because it is relatively flat."

Mr McAuley said training people was an issue, as the larger vehicles required a greater skill level.

NZTA's freight director, Harry Wilson, said it would work with local authorities to identify routes, and in particular bridges, which would need improvements to accommodate heavier vehicles.

Over the next three years, the NZTA has earmarked $45 million in funding towards upgrading bridges throughout the road network- including the Rangitata bridge in South Canterbury.

The agency had also been testing the roading network's capability to cater for 63-tonne rigs, two of which have been travelling the route between Picton and Timaru during off-peak hours.

Mr Wilson expected numbers of HPVs along the state highway network to increase.

However, he expected this would reduce the number of truck trips needed to move the same amount of freight, resulting in fewer trucks on the road.

The Timaru Herald