Big wins in reducing over-height incidents in Sydney

Targeted measures, increased education and a renewed focus by industry has been crucial in seeing the number of disruptive over-height heavy vehicle incidents fall significantly across Sydney in the past 12 months.

Following an unacceptable number of incidents across the city resulting in serious congestion issues for commuters and putting safety at risk, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) were committed to taking swift and effective action.

This included TfNSW boosting the fine to $5500 for over-height trucks who ignore low clearance signage, with drivers also able to be issued with 12 demerit points.

TfNSW also has the power to suspend a driver’s licence for up to six months, and can issue a registration suspension for trucks for up to six months.

At the NHVR, we boosted education messages to industry through dedicated advertising on social media, radio and online, and developed a brochure translated into three different languages to further inform drivers on what steps they can take to ensure incidents are avoided.

Industry too have played an important role in the reduction, and we thank them for their ongoing support in training drivers and ensuring their routes are appropriately managed and planned.

It’s exceptionally positive to see the number of incidents dramatically improve since the measures were introduced, with incidents involving over-height trucks across New South Wales falling to the lowest level since 2017.

According to TfNSW, from January to April this year Sydney has seen 19 fewer incidents than in the same period in 2023 – a reduction of almost half, from 39 to 20 incidents.

In the same period TfNSW issued eight over-height trucks with registration suspensions, and seven with licence suspensions.

However, being complacent on this important issue is not an option – not when every incident has the potential to cause traffic chaos, bring the city to a standstill, damage infrastructure, and lead to dangerous conditions for all road users.

At the NHVR, we remain vigilant in improving our strategies in communicating how to avoid such incidents.

It is important to remember that New South Wales has more tunnels and bridges with low clearances of less than 4.6 metres than any other state in Australia.

We understand that driving a heavy vehicle comes with increased challenges, but there are a number of steps which should be taken every time a vehicle hits the road.

Operators should ensure heavy vehicle loads are being measured before they depart – even if it is believed the height is already known.

Thoroughly planning routes to ensure vehicles are only travelling on roads, under bridges and through tunnels which are appropriate is also essential.

We know there is not one driver or operator who wants to be linked to an incident which causes major congestion, damages costly infrastructure or – worst of all – results in any injuries.

Remaining vigilant about the height of vehicles and where they can and can’t travel should be a top priority for everyone. 

  • Paul Salvati is the NHVR’s chief operations officer.

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