Defence remote rest areas could benefit roadtrains

NTRTA and WRF look to shareable infrastructure for win-win situation.

Defence remote rest areas could benefit roadtrains
One of the big MAN military trucks


Bolstering defence infrastructure in the north-western quarter of the nation’s landmass may hold a key to covering civilian freight needs, two of the most interested industry bodies believe.

Could multi-purposing heavy vehicle rest areas hold the key to securing more funding along road corridors, especially the 4,000km route between Perth and Darwin, the Northern Territory Road Transport Association (NTRTA) and Western Roads Federation (WRF) ask.

They point out that multi-tasking infrastructure in such remote areas in anything but new, pointing to dual-purpose remote highways upgraded in selected areas to a widened and marked runway capable of landing Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft.

They wonder if the same flexibility can be brought to the vexed question of rest areas in remote and regional areas and make three significant points about it.

Military-convoy capable

The increasing Australian Defence Force (ADF) focus on north-west Australia is seen as likely to create an additional demand for use of heavy vehicle rest areas by military convoys.

Existing rest area facilities are inadequate to accommodate the additional demands that could be placed upon them due to increased military activity.

In an article for a major defence magazine on an integrated defence and civilian road freight strategy for northern Australia, WRF CEO Cam Dumesny submits that the potential increase in military convoy activity necessitates serious consideration be given to creating heavy vehicle rest areas capable of taking at least one ‘convoy packet’.

"A ‘packet’ used to be up to seven vehicles, but now with the new MAN trucks, packets are restricted to five vehicles," Dumesny says.

"A number of packets make up a convoy, with each packet usually separated by a time spacing.

"Military convoy discipline requires packets to stop approximately every two hours for a 10-minute break."

Presently many of the rest areas are incapable of taking a packet and may be further restricted by the heavy axle weights of the MAN when carrying mission-specific pods.

Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Australia (RMMVA) will see its seven-year contract to the ADF end next year.

The deal is for more than 2,500 protected and unprotected medium and heavy logistic vehicles and 3,000 specialist modules.

ATA calls on industry to review security. Click here

"The road transport industry needs to leverage the increased defence strategic interest in North West Australia and its need for convoy packet capable rest areas to extract more funding for rest areas from the federal government," Dumesny says.

"Such investment should be on top of the $130 million the ATA won from the Federal Government last year for investment in rest areas across the nation."

Additional uses

The NTRTA and WRF believe any such rest areas should be built on either side of the road corridor in a way that enables them to be used as road train turnaround bays at times of road closures due to floods, fires, traffic accidents and other emergencies.

Moreover, the addition of wifi hotspot communication facilities as now being used in the NT can transform heavy vehicle rest areas into "the office" or "a social/family connection opportunity".

Limited application

The two bodies argue that what some describe as "joined-up government" thinking could smooth the path to a creative outcome.

"The military lever only has limited potential as it can really only be argued along our major strategic road supply chain routes across northern and western Australia," they say.

"However, if it is able to attract additional funding then it may mean more money is able to be spent on the other roads in the nation that need upgraded rest areas."


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