Fall in overheight incidents strengthens case for taller trucks, says peak body

Latest figures on overheight truck incidents in Sydney support the case for increasing the height of trucks to 4.6m, says Australian Trucking Association chair David Smith.

The general access height limit for trucks is 4.3m. The National Transport Commission’s HVNL review consultation statement looked at increasing the height limit to 4.6m, but raised concerns about the risk that trucks would strike overhead hazards.

The NSW statistics show that incidents involving overheight trucks in the Sydney tunnel network have fallen to their lowest level since 2017. There were four overheight incidents reported in November 2023, compared to 25 in November 2022.

Smith said the success in Sydney showed that the risk of overheight trucks could be managed successfully.

“Increasing the height of trucks to 4.6m would remove the need for operators to apply for some 1143 permits a year. It would save the industry $95,000 per year in permit fees and deliver time savings worth $91,000 per year.

“The impressive results achieved through the taskforce show that the safety concerns about 4.6m trucks can be managed.”

Road Freight NSW CEO Simon O’Hara said the reduction was due to the strong collaboration between the NHVR, Transport for NSW, police, the TWU and industry through the overheight truck taskforce.

“I want to thank Minister Graham for bringing the taskforce together. We have a terrific relationship with this government, and these statistics show the industry has stepped up and heard the call to do its bit,” O’Hara said.

The NSW Government said that since it launched its zero-tolerance approach to overheight breaches in June, almost half of all incidents that closed a tunnel have been due to loose and protruding scrap metal or trucks carrying construction machinery and equipment that tripped a height sensor.

In a statement released in October, the state government revealed that 14 of 33 tunnel closures have involved the scrap or machinery haulage sectors, with Transport for NSW (TfNSW) and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) tasked with intervening to find solutions in partnership with those freight operators and their representatives.

TfNSW has since contacted all scrap metal haulage companies with an overheight education toolkit that reinforces the need for companies and drivers to ensure all preventative measures, including covering loads with a tarp.

The Sydney Harbour Tunnel, which is impacted by the most overheight breaches, has recorded a 22 per cent decrease so far this year. The M5 East Tunnel has also seen a 65 per cent reduction in incidents and a nearly 43 per cent decrease has been noted at the Lane Cove Tunnel.

So far this year, TfNSW has stripped 19 heavy vehicles of their registration, taking them off our roads for up to six months, and a further 21 drivers have had their licence suspended.

An investment of $5 million has been made in infrastructure and improving the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Improved signage was installed and 31 advertising billboards erected.

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