New blueprint charts freight focus for Queensland

Freight strategy emphasises technology to enforce heavy vehicle compliance, changes to permit process and making operators responsible for route assessments

New blueprint charts freight focus for Queensland
New blueprint charts freight focus for Queensland
By Brad Gardner | June 27, 2013

Queensland will put greater emphasis on technology to enforce heavy vehicle laws remotely and rely more on transport operators to complete route assessments for higher productivity vehicles.

A new long-term freight strategy released by Transport Minister Scott Emerson (pictured) details heavy vehicle-specific initiatives among key priorities covering rail, infrastructure investment and road access to prepare Queensland for an expected 76 percent increase in freight volumes by 2021.

The draft Moving Freight blueprint, which charts short, medium and long-term actions, signals the use of technology to assist compliance efforts as the number of trucks on the road increase.

It sees industry responsibility for route assessments as necessary to getting larger rigs on the road to increase efficiency, lower transport costs and make the most out of existing road infrastructure assets.

"The increasing cost of assessing routes, combined with specific industry access requests, are impacting on the timeliness of related route assessments for potential access for these vehicles," the document, developed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, says.

"To accelerate the application and route assessment process, the department is pursuing a process for applicants to undertake their own assessment of routes and any associated works to inform access decisions."

The strategy claims handing the job of assessing over to industry allows operators to influence the assessment process, choose their own route assessor and potentially gain economic and productivity advantages earlier.

Transport and Main Roads has set a one to two-year timeframe to develop guidelines for industry to undertake route assessments. It also plans to work with local government and industry to resolve first and last mile access issues, which have hampered the take-up of higher productivity vehicles.

Furthermore, Queensland is intending to develop a plan within the next two years to identify road infrastructure needs to improve heavy vehicle access and better support oversize and overmass movements.

"The plan will inform opportunities to enhance the development and productivity of supply chains, particularly for the mining and agricultural sectors," the department says.

"It will also inform specific industry opportunities for investment as well as existing state programming of road investment and maintenance priorities."

It has set a three to five-year timeframe to develop a framework on the use of technology to monitor trucks.

The department says the aim is to profile high-risk activities and guide specific enforcement operations and that the plan will cover compliance risks, monitoring priorities, integration issues and overall direction.

The strategy says a fibre-optic cabling system linking weigh-in-motion detectors, changeable message signs, closed circuit television cameras and transport inspector control centres is in place to target vehicle mass, safety, fatigue and dangerous goods activities.

"Further potential system developments include enforcement grade digital cameras and a fully automated system using high-speed weight-in-motion detectors," it says.

The document lists the Intelligent Access Program, on-board mass monitoring, automatic number plate recognition, weigh-in-motion detectors and static and mobile speed cameras as enforcement tools in its kitbag.

"The application of these types of technology will support better use of the freight system. For example, the application of on-board mass technology provides a greater level of certainty to network managers on overall vehicle mass, increasing the opportunity to afford higher levels of access to freight vehicles," the strategy says.

Attention will also swing toward overhauling the permit process for oversize and overmass loads. The booming resources sector, particularly LNG, has led to a surge in demand for wide-load movements, prompting Transport and Main Roads to say the current permit system needs to be improved to cope.

"This includes the developing of automated systems, streamlining application processes, amending work flow requirements and automating associated route assessment requirements," it says.

The strategy says the department is also looking to identify a strategic trunk network for oversize and overmass movements. It says the process will require an understanding of emerging load requirements, assessing capability of routes and mapping the network.

Transport and Main Roads also wants to get its hands on freight information and data generated during heavy vehicle movements.

It says governments lack detailed information about the level, nature and timing of freight demand to inform decisions about road network needs.

"This type of information is generally available to, and held by, industry as a result of commercial negotiations with freight customers," the strategy says.

"Typically, the sharing of this type of information has been restricted due to intellectual property and commercial in confidence issues."

The Queensland Government says it wants to develop systems in the next one to two years to support the collection, analysis and distribution of freight data, in partnership with industry.

"Developing a renewed focus on collating freight information and data, and working cooperatively with industry is necessary to making better informed freight system decisions," the strategy says.

"This includes systems and process that respect commercial and intellectual issues and sensitivities in relation to the collation, analysis and distribution of data."

Other proposals outlined in the strategy, which lists 38 actions all up, include plans to integrate freight modes, preserving new corridors to support freight growth and protecting the network from inconsistent land-use and development.

"Future freight growth between Queensland and southern states will also drive increasing focus on planning for interstate connections, including a future inland railway between Melbourne and Brisbane," it says.

Furthermore, the plan argues the need to support reforms such as the National Land Freight Strategy and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, continuing to work with freight industry councils and delivering more heavy vehicle rest areas.

In unveiling the strategy, Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson sought to highlight the Government’s commitment to improving rail freight.

The plan, which is open to public feedback, points to an expansion of rail as its key priority, citing the need to improve the north-south line and the west and south-west rail systems and supporting an inland rail freight strategy.

"We’ve already taken actions to fund additional train lines for the Darling Downs, more cattle train services and open up routes for safer classes of heavy vehicles," Emerson says.

Transport and Main Roads says about 468km of roads have been opened up in south-east Queensland and Townsville since 2010 for vehicles under the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme.

It says a further 2,600km of road is currently under consideration, including the Cunningham Highway from Warwick to the Ipswich Motorway and the Pacific Motorway and Bruce Highway from the New South Wales border to the Fitzroy/Mackay region.

The department is also looking at granting access to roads at freight precincts at Acacia Ridge, Yatala, Amberley and Hemmant, along with routes in Mackay, Gladstone, Goondiwindi and Eagle Farm.

The plan shows the majority of the State’s freight task still falls on the trucking industry, with road responsible for moving 68 percent of freight.

The rail sector moves 30 percent of freight, with sea and air splitting the remainder. Rigid trucks carry the bulk of road freight (293.7 million tonnes), followed by articulated trucks (250.8 million tonnes).

"There is latent capacity across sections of the rail network with the ability to support growing freight demand," the plan states.

"Ideally, rail is suited to freight tasks that are high volume point-to-point pick up and delivery over long distances. Opportunities exist to attract freight volumes to rail for agricultural and general freight tasks therefore improving efficiency."

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