Damage caused by heavy vehicles to Hamilton's roads will become harder to monitor under a new agreement between the city council and the NZ Transport Agency, a senior councillor has warned.
The council's strategy and policy committee this week voted 8 to 2 to delegate the approval of applications for the use of high-productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs) to the NZ Transport Agency.
The arrangement will see the agency issue blanket permits to HPMVs (up to 50 tonnes) to operate on the city's roads and individual permits to specially designed HPMVs (from 44 tonnes to 62 tonnes) for specific areas of Hamilton.
An analysis of the city's roading network by the agency found Hamilton's short-span bridges and small-diameter culverts could carry HPMVs up to 50 tonnes.
However, long-span bridges that cross the Waikato River were found unsuitable for HPMVs.
A council staff report said the city had state highways close to most industrial areas and there was little need for HPMVs up to 62 tonnes to use city roads beyond those industrial boundaries.
"As there is little need for these large vehicles to go beyond the industrial areas, staff prefer that the HPMV [up to 62 tonnes] be restricted to roads in the industrial areas and relevant main corridors," the report says.
Councillor Dave Macpherson said special licences were currently issued to overweight or oversized vehicles to travel on the city's roads, and he believed that system worked well.
Macpherson, who with councillor Martin Gallagher voted against the delegation agreement, said residents complained about trucks using residential streets and believed the new arrangement could put more heavy vehicles on Hamilton's roads.
Trucks already did damage to Hamilton's roading network and the new arrangement would make it impossible to monitor or police the issue.
"Staff have done a sterling job trying to explain away NZTA's position to us over the last four to five years but I don't see any benefit to us in the long-term compared to the potential extra costs and safety issues that some of us face," Macpherson said.
"I don't think this is anything other than something designed to improve profitability for the freight industry I'm afraid." The agency has signalled that enabling HPMVs on to roads was a key focus for the agency. The 50MAX HPMVs are longer than the standard 44-tonne trucks and have nine axles in order to operate at 50 tonnes total weight.
Last year, the Waikato District Council gave the green light for 50MAX HPMVs on its roads. Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said she understood people's nervousness about the agreement but said the NZ Transport Agency had to comply with the council's bylaw.
All the evidence indicated HPMVs did not cause any more harm to roads than existing trucks, Hardaker said.
"One of the very important things for the city is that we continue to make ourselves available for the things that we do very well in the city and that is about our logistics, our freight, and our export-led economy," she said.