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Western Australia approves 60m road-trains in the Pilbara

The 60m road trains will undertake a three-month trial on the Great Northern Highway.


Western Australia is trialling super-quad combinations on highways in what state transport minister Dean Nalder says is a national first.

The 60m road trains will undertake a three-month trial in the Pilbara on the Great Northern Highway between Munjina-Roy Hill Road and Utah Point, Port Hedland.  

“They have undergone – and passed – rigorous safety assessments to ensure they are safe to operate on public roads,” Nalder says.

“Even though they are longer, these are state-of-the-art vehicles with improved safety and superior handling compared to the standard 53.5m road trains, the longest currently allowed on our roads.”

The first two vehicles have been built by WA trailer manufacturers Bruce Rock Engineering and Howard Porter to transport iron ore and other minerals for Process Minerals International and Qube Bulk.

Though capable of higher speeds, the road trains will be limited telematically to 90km/h, which the government says will allow “easier overtaking by other vehicles and ensuring superior on-road performance”.

Nalder says the trial aims to eventually provide the mining industry with greater productivity and lower operating costs, reduce the number of vehicles on the road in the long-term and introduce a safer vehicle.

The trial will assess impact on the road infrastructure and other road users, such as pavement assessments, traffic data, community surveys and on-road monitoring.

The vehicle combinations will be assessed by a panel of the Road Safety Commission, local government, WA Police, Main Roads Western Australia and the caravanning industry.

Qube has wasted no time in getting the combination up and running and saying it is the first heavy haul company to trial a Performance Based Standards (PBS) quad road train in the Pilbara in support of junior iron ore and manganese miners using Utah Point.  

“The first set run tipped off at Utah this afternoon at 1500[hrs] with a load from Atlas Wodgina mine,” a spokesman says.

“This unit is 60m in length and will carry up to 140 tonne payloads.  

“This compared with conventional quads that are 53.5m in length and carry 114 tonne payloads.  

“If adopted across all tonnes at Utah Point it has the potential to reduce the current required truck trips into the facility by 46,000 trips per annum.  

“This is a very significant road safety and productivity uplift.

“Qube will deploy our PBS quads on CML’s Woodie Woodie operation and Atlas Widgina and Abydos operations.”  

Bruce Rock Engineering managing director Damion Verhoogt says the trial is the culmination of almost two years negotiations with the WA Department of Transport, PBS assessors and clients.

The company has approval for six sets in all, with the others awaiting commercial terms from clients.

The process had focused on infrastructure impacts and traffic interactions, with Verhoogt saying that the eventual outcome has been a top-line product.

“Through the PBS process, we have ended up with a vehicle that is actually dynamically superior to the existing quad set-ups that are on the road at the moment,” he says.

“We’ve actually got a much-higher productivity vehicle; the thing’s actually much safer than existing gear; it’s monitored a lot better through the IAP [Intelligent Access Program].

“Apart from a bit bigger vehicle and more tonnes, there’s been a big safety and performance gain on what there is currently.”

Howard Porter managing director Roy Lombardi says the initiative is a whole of industry and government effort in support of junior miners facing hard times due to the fall in mineral prices.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on junior miners over here to increase productivity and safety getting their product to the port with the downturn in iron ore pricing,” Lombardi says.

“There’s a good relationship between industry and government over here and they threw it all on the table to keep some of these smaller mines viable.

“Just a bit of a coordinated effort between ourselves and few operators, Main Roads and the minister.”

Howard Porter worked with Qube for nine months on the quad road train design.


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