For NSW, what the Minister’s proposing is genuinely a revolution. It will be HML mass-limits, with ‘as of right access’ to the road network that’s relevant to each corresponding vehicle class: all of the B-Double network for B-Doubles, all road train routes for road trains, and the whole network for singles.
Unlike HML, the Minister’s proposed scheme won’t come with a requirement for mass management accreditation nor, as the Minister took care to state, will there be a requirement for IAP tracking on B-Doubles, singles, or road trains.
How is that possible? Has the Minister suddenly replaced all the old bridges in NSW? Or has he locked all of the government’s engineers away in a dark room and forbidden them to speak?
In fact, it’s neither of these things.
This decision has turned on getting those engineers to confess to what has long been an open secret: when an engineer says ‘this bridge cannot take the risks created by that load’, he or she isn’t really talking about the load that you are asking to move over the bridge.
No, those refusals have been based on the engineers’ fear and anxiety that if you were given approval to run at a gross of 68 tonnes on, say, a general freight job, a bunch of bozos will come along and run their trucks back and forth at a gross weight of 90 tonnes – or even more if they are truly ambitious. To achieve those weights, of course, they’ll be carrying up to twice the legal payload.
For livestock, the risk of this kind of ‘double-payload’ level of overloading is very tiny.
You can run a bit heavy in a stockcrate sometimes, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone could ever achieve double payload – not unless you can train the cattle to hang off the rails and stand on the roof!
It’s a point Minister Gay understands very well. In his speech, he went out of his way to make this point clear:
“It’s important to reflect on the unique nature of livestock transport.
“First, livestock crates have physical restrictions in terms of length, breadth and height meaning you can’t “double the load”.
“Second, under animal welfare loading standards you can only fit a certain number of livestock into a crate [without damaging the cargo you’re paid to carry].”
Minister Gay understands these features of the livestock freight task. And so does every other State in Australia; that’s why every other State in mainland Australia has had some form of ‘livestock loading scheme’ in place for twenty-odd years.
And finally, it’s worth paying credit to two Presidents of our NSW Association.
Former President, Jim Savage – closely supported by Bob Richardson – spent uncounted hours trudging up to Sydney and talking with those troublesome, frustrating government engineers in order to establish that an inappropriate approach to bridge assessment was a major reason why NSW has never picked up this reform in the past.
And current NSW President Barney Hayes played an absolute blinder, taking this insight direct to the new Minister and working with him at the highest levels in the new government to make all the old excuses and barriers fall away.
Our members, nationwide, will look forward to the new NSW Government implementing this scheme later this year. It will fix a situation where, in the Minister’s own words, ‘NSW has for too long been a bit of a speed bump in the Federation of Australia.’