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Heavy Truck Move Seen Benefiting Milk, Logs And Aggregate

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Steven Joyce. Pic: NZPA
Steven Joyce. Pic: NZPA

By Pam Graham of NZPA

Wellington, June 29 NZPA - Fonterra and movers of aggregate, fuel and logs are among the companies expected to chase productivity gains -- estimated to be up to 20 percent -- from using heavier trucks.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce is seeking feedback on a plan to introduce a permit system allowing trucks to carry up to 50 tonnes on specific routes. The statutory limit is currently 44 tonnes.

A trial that ran from last year showed productivity increased between 10 and 20 percent, trip numbers reduced by 16 percent and fuel use dropped 20 percent, Mr Joyce said.

The change does not require legislation. According to officials, the permit system will ensure that the heavier trucks do not travel over roads and bridges that can't take them and councils are involved in permit approval. Trucks carrying up to 53 tonnes will be allowed.

Permits could be issued from early next year. The system is expected to evolve over time.

Listed logistics company Mainfreight said it would move where appropriate to use the new system, though it needed more information about the permits.

Ian Clark, project manager at the Ministry of Transport, said Fonterra wanted to take part in a trial but enough information had already been gathered. Milk tankers are capable of carrying up to 52 tonnes but are currently limited to 44 tonnes, he said.

A Fonterra spokesman said the issue was an area the dairy co-operative had been watching and it offered potential efficiency gains. But the commercial viability had to be assessed.

"We are keen on looking at it," he said.

Fonterra has about 400 milk tankers, making it the largest owner operator of heavy transport in New Zealand.

Automobile Association spokesman Mike Noon said the AA's submission would call for the use of safe vehicles and also an assurance that damage would not be done to regional roads.

"There will be roads that handle this well and other roads that won't," he said.

The impact of regional roads was an issue for the use of milk tankers.

Heavier vehicles pay higher road user charges. Mr Noon said they should be monitored electronically so they pay the correct road user charges and their movement was monitored.

In 2004, Fonterra was estimated to have a fleet of 440 truck and trailer units and 25 A-trains and B-trains. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority estimated in 2005 that milk tankers travel 70 million kilometres a year.

Fonterra also uses rail to carry milk and has increasingly been using rail to transport exports to ports.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Tony Friedlander said his organisation had been lobbying for the use of heavier trucks for many years.

"Trucks should be allowed to carry the weight they are designed to carry and this is what this move effectively does," he said.

He said a whole range of industries would take advantage of the change.

Mr Joyce said the change would mean fewer trucks on the road, which would ease congestion and frustration, Mr Joyce said.

The trucks would be heavier but not larger, Mr Joyce said.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said heavier trucks would endanger lives.

Although trucks account for only 4 percent of the road fleet they were involved in 23 percent of all crashes, she said.

Heavier trucks were a "major road safety hazard" because those hit by a heavier truck would suffer more damage, Ms Kedgley said.

In 2007 a court heard that two men died when a Fonterra B-train with a gross weight of 46,520kg crashed on SH29 in the Waikato. Dog & Lemon Guide author Clive Matthew-Wilson said the average motorist was the loser. "Trucking companies use the roads paid for by the average motorist , yet they don't pay even a fraction of the cost of the damage they do," he said.

He said the Government estimated it would cost $85 million to $100m to strengthen bridges and roads used by 50 tonne trucks.

He said 50 tonne trucks cause 6,250,000 times more damage than a one tonne truck.

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