Friday, July 3, 2015
Container transport operators see positive signs from a concerted campaign to highlight the productivity, safety and export competitiveness that can be achieved by allowing Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV) to operate at higher mass limits on Victorian roads.

On behalf of its clients in Victoria, Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) has been at the forefront of advocating for change. "We are starting to see results from these concerted efforts," said CTAA director Neil Chambers.

A successful industry meeting held in late March 2015 with the new Victorian Minister for Roads & Ports, Hon. Luke Donnellan, led to the Minister's office renewing efforts with VicRoads to identify key freight routes that can accommodate greater road mass limits.

A clear official policy statement on wider access for HPFV has yet to be announced by the Andrews government. Despite this, however, industry is encouraged that some access applications are being approved for the use of HPFV in 40' x 40' container configurations on the broader road network at mass limits higher than 68.5 tonnes.

Pleasingly also, some local councils that have been opposed to HPFV access in the past are now granting local road access permission. "Notably, Maribyrnong City Council, at a meeting held mid-June, granted access permission for two prominent container transport operators in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne to operate HPFV," Mr Chambers noted.

Matt Simmons, managing director of high-volume container transport operator, Rocke Bros. Transport, welcomed the decision of the Maribyrnong City Council. "We've been in dialogue with the council for a number of years. The change to their policy position is pragmatic, and shows that regulators and the community are beginning to understand that these new heavy vehicle configurations are safe and productive. Importantly, their use will ultimately lead to fewer trucks overall carrying import and export containers to and from the Port of Melbourne."

Subject to final approvals through VicRoads and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), Rocke Bros. Transport intends to operate 30 metre, 40' x 40' container-configured Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV) from its yard in Tottenham to and from the Port of Melbourne, and more broadly on the Victorian road network.

"Transport operators are willing to invest in new trailers and prime mover equipment provided they can achieve the necessary increases in mass limits to make their investment commercially viable." Neil Chambers said. "This means gaining the optimum mass limit approvals that match, or come close to matching, the vehicle's design parameters. Unfortunately, incremental mass limit increases of only a couple of tonnes don't make these new combination investments viable."

In the case of 30 metre A-doubles, the optimum design weight is 85.5 tonne Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM).

"Queensland allows these combinations at 85.5 tonne GVM to operate from Toowoomba across the Toowoomba Range into the Port of Brisbane. They achieved that through close freight network planning cooperation between local governments, the state and the freight industry. Victoria is lagging behind this cooperative benchmark, but we are hopeful that we are on the cusp of similar planning and network use achievements in Victoria," Mr Chambers observed.

"VicRoads has been completing a review of key road freight routes in the State that link major agricultural production, manufacturing and freight generating areas to Melbourne and its commercial ports and industrial precincts. VicRoads is to be applauded for this work to date.

"What the freight industry needs now though is transparency. Let's all know what bridges and other road network infrastructure may be impeding further road freight productivity. That way, governments and the industry can have a mature and informed discussion about infrastructure upgrade priorities based on important data such as regional, commodity, corridor and route-specific freight growth," Mr Chambers said.

In a linked initiative, CTAA submitted a proposal on behalf of its alliance companies to the Victorian Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) trials program led by VicRoads and Transport Certification Australia (TCA). The submission champions the implementation of on-board mass monitoring (OBM) technology in return for increases in allowable mass limits. The Victorian Government is yet to make decisions on what initiatives are to be selected for the Freight ITS Trials. However, CTAA is hopeful that the identified productivity and safety improvements outlined in its submission make a compelling case for inclusion.

"For a major transport operator like Rocke Bros. Transport, the use of HPFV at higher mass from Geelong, to their yard in Tottenham, and onwards to the Port of Melbourne, would halve the number of trucks needed to carry heavy grain export containers – a reduction of around 12,750 truck trips per annum.

"What a bonus just this one example is for productivity, road safety, environmental impact and economic generation," Mr Chambers concluded.
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