NatRoad strikes a win on wool bales in NSW

Hard-fought campaign for wool bale reform pays off, with NSW roads minister granting a width concession for trucking operators

June 30, 2011

The trucking industry’s hard-fought campaign to overturn a controversial wool loading policy has paid off, with NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay announcing an immediate concession.

After a two-year battle with the Roads and Traffic Authority, NatRoad has convinced the NSW Government to amend the restriction that the butt of wool bales must not exceed 2.5 metres in width when being transported.

As ATN reported last year, trucking operators could not comply with the width requirement because the butts of wool bales can protrude during transit due to the way they are pressed.

Gay has extended the limit to 2.7 metres. Under the new condition, vehicles travelling at night with loads exceeding 2.6 metres must have a flashing light, load delineators and warning signs.

There are also restrictions on using clearways and transit lanes, while operators are allowed a maximum 100mm side load projection on any one side of the vehicle.

"The conditions attached to the notice strike a reasonable balance between protecting public safety and the practical need to move wool from farm to port," NatRoad President Rob McIntosh says.

NatRoad has also secured a commitment from Gay that the concession will be enshrined in regulation before it expires in one year.

McIntosh says the association will back efforts to slot the provision into national heavy vehicle regulations as a local productivity variation.

He praised the government’s actions as "a victory for common sense" and fired a shot at the Roads and Traffic Authority and NSW Police.

He accused both departments of "crippling the NSW wool industry" by handing out infringements for over dimensional loads.

"For the past two years NatRoad, NSW Farmer's Association and wool industry organisations have been pressuring the NSW RTA to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency," McIntosh says.

ATN previously reported the RTA knew the policy could not be complied when one of its enforcement officers alerted the department that including the butt of a bale when measuring a load meant a truck’s width was about 2.7 metres.

The RTA officer, Doug Dewberry, recommended allowing the butt of bales to exceed the width restriction as long as the bale seam was within the vehicle’s dimensions. The department ignored Dewberry and carried on issuing infringements.

ATN obtained a document earlier this year that revealed the RTA wanted to impose a suite of new regulations on trucking operators in return for granting them a concession on wool bales.

The department wanted stringent driving time and zone restrictions to apply during peak hour times, weekends, daytime and public holidays.

The RTA notice 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.

Earlier this year a spokesperson for the RTA defended the department’s decision to ignore Dewberry’s advice.

"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 spokesperson said at the time.

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