NTC seeks changes to unlock quad-axle truck capacity

Commission believes it can increase the payload of some truck combinations by up to 16 per cent.

NTC seeks changes to unlock quad-axle truck capacity
National Transport Commission CEO Paul Retter.


Restrictions holding quad-axle trucks back from reaching their full potential could be pushed aside if a proposal from the National Transport Commission (NTC) is implemented.

The group this week released a proposal it says will, if introduced, increase the payload of certain truck combinations by up to 16 per cent on some routes.

The NTC wants to allow quad-axle group vehicles to use higher mass limits without having to go through the Performance Based Standards (PBS) application and approval process.

"This could unlock significant productivity gains for many transport operators by cutting red tape and reducing fuel use," NTC CEO Paul Retter says.

"Quad-axle group vehicles have the capability to safely carry up to 12 per cent more payload than the current mass limits allow, but are currently restricted to the same limits as tri-axle heavy vehicles under the law, unless they undertake the Performance Based Standards application and approval process."

The NTC’s preferred option will allow quad-axle vehicles to carry increased mass on routes previously assessed as adequate for PBS approved vehicles without having to go through the PBS process.

Under this option, a Class 3 notice will be developed to allow vehicles with quad-axle groups (primarily used by B-double and semi-trailer combinations) to increase mass by 4 tonnes at general mass limits to 24 tonnes, and to operate at 27 tonnes under higher mass limits, without the current need to obtain approval through PBS scheme.

"The PBS scheme was always intended as a platform where we could test innovative vehicle designs, and this would eventually lead to broader use of these vehicle designs outside the scheme. After seven years operating safely under the PBS scheme, it is clear we have enough evidence to take these vehicles to the next stage," Retter says.

General mass limits determine the maximum weight an axle group or heavy vehicle combination can carry to gain access to the general road network. Higher mass limitsare available to operators in a restricted road network under a special permit or notice.

The NTC also wants twin-steer prime movers towing a semi-trailer be allowed to increase their mass by 4 tonnes to 46.5 tonnes at general mass limits under the Heavy Vehicle National Law and to operate with a Class 3 notice at 49.5 tonnes under higher mass limits.

"For example, currently some shipping containers are double handled once they leave port because twin steer semi-trailers can only carry their full payload capacity in a restricted area, even though these kinds of heavy vehicles are designed to carry this weight safely," Retter says.

"Heavier containers often have to be unloaded and broken down to be transported by multiple vehicles, wasting time and money."

The NTC did look at the viability of changing to the mass limits for tri-drive prime movers towing a semi-trailer but found it unnecessary because the vehicles are not widely used in jurisdictions that have adopted the HVNL (every jurisdiction except Western Australia and the Northern Territory).

The NTC’s proposals have been released publicly for feedback. Following public consultation, the NTC says it will deliver final proposals to the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials Committee, which is group made up of senior state and territory transport bureaucrats.


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