Austroads bridge research pinpoints access inefficiencies

Report, published amid CEO retirement, calls for system automation

Austroads bridge research pinpoints access inefficiencies
Current bridge formulae can allow for vehicles with greater loads than bridges have been designed for


Peak roads agency Austroads has unveiled its research aimed at reducing the impacts of heavy vehicles on bridge infrastructure while maintaining freight productivity.

Investigation and Development of Bridge Formulae for Inclusion in the Performance-based Standards (PBS) is a response to PBS reforms proposed in 2018.

Austroads notes PBS Tier 1 bridge formulae govern the minimum axle spacing, extreme axle spacing and total mass for heavy vehicles to mitigate their impacts on bridge infrastructure.

While Tier 1 PBS vehicles comply with the formulae and are permitted to use the bridges, the current bridge formulae can allow for vehicles with greater loads than bridges have been designed for.

Many road agencies have identified this issue so assess all applications individually rather than granting automatic access when heavy vehicles comply with the bridge formulae, which is necessary but slows down the approval process, Austroads says.

Austroads' recent truck width research drew mixed responses

Its research points to options to create faster access decisions while ensuring safety and productivity outcomes were met, Austroads program manager network Richard Delplace says.

"The report … focused on ways in which we, in consultation with our member agencies, could review the current PBS Tier 1 bridge formulae, analyse possible PBS vehicle load improvements and review current infrastructure assessment practices," Delplace says.

Co-author Neal Lake says the research calls for a nationally consistent user interface and database with one application process using an automated line model comparison.

"This option provides the best freight access solution, is good value for money and allows road agencies to protect their assets without compromising freight productivity," Lake says.

The system needs to produce bespoke access maps and routes, be automated, have a fast processing time and be able to be updated by road agencies at any time, co-author Matthew Bereni adds.

"Modern computational power will allow us to unlock access potential of all structures on the network, in a safe and sustainable fashion," Bereni  says.  

"This research forms the foundation of a future nationally consistent assessment of heavy vehicle applications with real-time, traceable and documented application outcomes."

Delplace notes Austroads has accepted the recommendations and is now preparing a scoping study to explain ways in which the framework and database can be developed and implemented as soon as possible.

The full report is available here.

Meanwhile, the agency notes its chief executive, Nick Koukoulas, has retired.

"After five and a half years successfully leading the strategic direction and staff of Austroads to deliver a financially robust and internationally recognised organisation, Nick Koukoulas has announced his retirement," Austroads notes in a short statement.

"Recruitment for our new Chief Executive has started and applications close 27 March."


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