RTA gets red-tape happy to overcome loading impasse

The RTA attempted to impose new regulations on trucking operators to resolve a dispute over contentious loading policy

RTA gets red-tape happy to overcome loading impasse
RTA gets red-tape happy to overcome loading impasse
By Brad Gardner | March 21, 2011

The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority attempted to impose a suite of new regulations on trucking operators to resolve a dispute over a contentious loading policy.

ATN has obtained documents that reveal the RTA wanted to slap stringent driving time and zone restrictions on trucking operators as a solution to reaching a compromise on its maligned wool loading policy.

As reported by ATN, the trucking industry wants the RTA to revert back to a previous loading policy because it claims the current one cannot be legally complied with.

Both parties met recently as part of an industry-government roundtable, and the RTA proposed permitting the industry to use its preferred loading method if it agreed to driving restrictions during peak hour times, weekends, daytime and public holidays.

The Class 3 Baled Wool Exemption Notice – approved by RTA CEO Michael Bushby – would prevent trucks from using certain routes including highways if introduced. Furthermore, trucks would need to be fitted with warning signs, lights and flags and be accompanied by a vehicle escort at certain times.

The RTA wanted to impose the notice until September 30 this year, but it was flatly rejected by industry groups involved in the roundtable discussions. One carrier ATN spoke to estimated the RTA’s proposal would add an extra 50 percent to the cost of each bale carted in NSW.

"We wouldn’t agree to it. They are not on the same planet," the trucking owner says.

"It’s no wonder industry in NSW is on its knees."

The RTA’s proposal was "insulting" and "ludicrous", according to one figure involved in attempts to reform the loading policy.

"We’re really not getting anywhere at the moment," they say.

Under the existing loading regulation, wool bales must not exceed 2.5 metres in width. The width restriction includes the butts of the bales, which protrude when they are pressed and can bulge during transit.

Because of this, an RTA compliance officer, Doug Dewberry, told the department it was not possible to load the bales within a width of 2.5 metres.

He recommended the reinstatement of a regulation that addressed problems with the shape of wool bales. It permitted the butt of bales to exceed the width restriction as long as the bale seam was within the vehicle’s dimensions.

In a report to the RTA, Dewberry noted that the RTA’s decision to include butts when measuring a load meant a truck’s width was about 2.7 metres. Penalties for exceeding the 2.5 metre width can range from $258 to $659.

The roundtable meeting was held following a workshop in February involving NatRoad, the NSW Farmers Association, trucking operators and the RTA.

During the event, one transport operator loaded a truck according to existing regulations to prove to RTA officers it could not be done.

"The truck loaded as part of a demonstration at the workshop in Dubbo was measured for compliance with the legal width limit at the end of the demonstration and found to exceed that limit," an RTA spokeswoman says.

She says wool bales can be loaded according to current regulations, but the trucking industry fears the practice is unsafe because bales sag and move during transit.

The RTA has also defended its decision to ignore Dewberry’s recommendation.

"There may be instances where staff suggest a course of action, but a range of other factors need to be considered and it is not always possible to adopt these as operational policy," the spokeswoman says.

"The RTA continues to work with industry to ensure road safety, economic and industry considerations are addressed."

Another meeting to reach a compromise is scheduled for May 2. ATN understands the RTA will attempt to use computer modelling to show the existing regulation can be complied with.

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