There is a significant opportunity to open-up access to thousands of bridges and culverts across the country that are currently unavailable to the heavy vehicle fleet and greatly impact the productivity of the road transport task.
This access constraint can be due to undefined load limits, asset condition, or lack of original asset information, such as construction drawings. This makes it difficult for local government road managers to coordinate network access for assets they are responsible for under the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
To help deliver informed road safety and access decisions, the Australian Government provided the NHVR with $7.96 million in grant funding to launch the first phase of the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project (SLGAAP) in late 2019.
Through SLGAAP, the NHVR works with engineers and road managers to undertake assessments of local government infrastructure across rural and regional Australia. By better understanding the condition of their assets, road managers can confidently open up more networks and move to pre-approved routes and gazettals – reducing the need for permits.
In close to two years, SLGAAP has delivered more than 390 bridge assessments, across 74 council areas and we are seeing the benefits, with access opening across previously underrated or uncategorised assets, enabling drivers to use shorter, safer routes.
In particular, the Bega Valley Shire Council’s Greendale Bridge was restricted for OSOM and Performance Based Standards vehicles as the structural capacity was unknown. This meant combination such as A-double milk tankers were required to travel an extra approximate 8 kilometres using alternative unsealed roads, causing wear to both vehicles and infrastructure.
Once the bridge was assessed against 112 vehicle configurations under a Tier 2 structural assessment, it was identified to have enough capacity to safely carry an extended range of OSOM vehicles. The shorter route is now being used and is safely providing productivity benefits while reducing infrastructure wear and damage.
To keep building on these successful outcomes, in May 2021, the Australian Government provided the program with an additional $12.1 million funding over three years, which will allow another 1000 assessments to be undertaken.
I encourage industry and road managers to work together to identify assets that could be assessed through SLGAAP and apply for Phase Two (applications open from April). To get involved, or if you have any questions, you can email the SLGAAP team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital Road Manager Toolkit
To help road managers interpret the SLGAAP bridge and culvert assessment and engineering report against a range of vehicle configurations, the NHVR developed a suite of free resources as part of a digital Road Manager Toolkit.
The Toolkit includes learning modules, webinars, frequently asked questions, templates, and tips to support local governments throughout the assessment process and inform asset-related access decisions. You can access these useful tools at nhvr.engagementhub.com.au/page/road-manager-toolkit.
The results of the bridge asset assessments, along with existing infrastructure information is combined for the first time in a national database of road and bridge asset conditions. This information is available for industry and road managers to view in the NHVR Portal.
An Asset Rapid Assessment Tool (ARAT) is also being built into the Portal and will be available in the next few months. The tool will allow road managers to enter in specific details of the vehicle requesting access and compare it to a reference vehicle – providing bridge assessment results in minutes. This seeks to enable road managers to make more informed decisions and deliver timely access turnaround times. Ultimately, we want to get to a position where we can deliver a modern access regime that removes the need for permits through increased knowledge of infrastructure (and where upgrades are needed) to provide greater access certainty, efficiency and improved safety.