Big benefits from bigger trucks

6 Dec 2007

Forest owners have welcomed the Cabinet decision to investigate whether heavier vehicles should be allowed to use selected roads and highways.

This follows a recent Ministry of Transport/Transit New Zealand review of the heavy vehicle rule. With the exception of some log trucks, which since 2002 have had a concession to carry loads of up to 22 metres, the rule normally limits heavy vehicles to a maximum of 44 tonnes weight and 20 metres in length.

New Zealand Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes says the 22 metre concession was linked to a reduction in load height – a move which has been followed by a big reduction in log truck rollovers.

Each year, 31 million tonnes of logs, wood products and paper are transported by road, making forest products the largest road freight category in New Zealand, outside of general freight.

The forest industry’s submission to the review was based on a Transport Engineering Research NZ Ltd (TERNZ) study of the safety of four proposed new rig configurations. The heaviest of these weighed 62 tonnes. The other set-ups involved vehicle lengths of up to 24 metres.

NZFOA transport committee chair Brian Pritchard says the use of such rigs on selected routes would offer annual fuel savings of 3.5 million litres, a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 9000 tonnes a year, and significant improvements in productivity and safety.

“That’s just log transport – other freight categories would doubtless enjoy similar benefits,” he says.

The routes the forest industry has identified for larger vehicles represent about 40 per cent of the industry’s transport load and involve only the high quality state highways which serve most processing plants, metropolitan areas and export ports.

“Heavier trucks are much more fuel-efficient than smaller rigs. Greater length, combined with a reduction in load height, also enables more packets of the preferred log length – 6 metres – to be carried safely on a single vehicle,” Mr Pritchard says.

“The forest industry is very proud of its success in dramatically reducing log truck accidents. In the past 10 years there has been a 7-fold decrease in log truck rollovers, due mainly to initiatives introduced or promoted by the Logging Truck Safety Council, among them 22 metre rigs.

“With heavier, longer trucks, with a lower centre of gravity, we will see further increases in fuel efficiency, productivity and road safety.”

[Note]

The forest industry’s submission to the review of the heavy vehicle rule was jointly prepared by the NZFOA and the Logging Truck Safety Council (LTSC) and also represented the interests of distributors of processed forest products.

[ends]

For more information, please contact David Rhodes, Tel 0274 955 525 or Brian Pritchard, Tel 021 900 201