Law changes needed for local roads

Austroads recommends funding, education and legal changes for local road managers

Law changes needed for local roads
Part of the cover of Local Road Access for High Productivity Freight Vehicles, a new report by Austroads


Providing targeted funding to upgrade or replace critical structures and outsourcing audits and assessments for local roads are two recommendations of a new report on High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs) on local roads.

Prepared by road transport and traffic agency peak body Austroads, the Local Road Access for High Productivity Freight Vehicles report examines the challenges of providing HPFVs with access to local roads.

Often referred to as "the last mile", these roads provide the necessary links between paved roads and what is often a vehicle’s last destination – silos, sale yards, distribution centres, depots and other facilities.

The report says it can be difficult for local governments to balance the needs of the different users of local roads – and in some cases, a local government may even refuse to grant HPFVs access to them, due to concerns about the ability of the road to handle that size of vehicle.

However, the report found that most barriers to access were not due to infrastructure capacity, but instead, they were in the operation of the Performance Based Standards (PBS) Scheme, a system established in October 2007 that placed roads across Australia in different categories.

"The vast majority of barriers were found to stem from road managers’ incomplete understanding of Performance Based Standards, resource shortages, and areas for improvement in the Heavy Vehicle National Law," the report said.

Recommendations about how these may be improved focused on education, funding needs, legislative change, appeals processes, cost recovery frameworks and route assessment guidelines and tools.

They include:

  • Making education about high-productivity freight vehicles and the PBS Scheme better co-ordinated and more accessible to local and regional road managers;
  • Providing a mechanism by which local councils can apply for funding to outsource bridge asset auditing and geometric or structural route assessments to third-party professionals;
  • Delivering targeted funding to upgrade or replace critical structures so that high-productivity freight vehicles can access priority freight routes;
  • Consider introducing a timeframe for access decisions to be made, rather than keeping PBS Vehicle Approval applicants waiting with no end in sight;
  • Redraft Section 156(3) of the Heavy Vehicle National Law – which allows road managers to refuse access – by requiring the reasons for refusal be compelling; and by later allowing access if sufficient risk mitigation measures are in place;
  • Implementing an independent appeals process for adverse access decisions;
  • Improving the NHVR Journey Planner to be updated more often and to better consider vehicle and road classifications;
  • Developing a suite of practice-ready cost recovery options to compensate for additional infrastructure consumption or to fund infrastructure upgrades; and
  • Updating the PBS Network Classification Guidelines to reflect the more advanced route assessment guidelines used by state road authorities and to include additional considerations specific to local councils.

The full report can be found here.

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