Northland bridges ready for freight's new era


The first of a number of bridges in the upper North Island identified by the NZ Transport Agency for improvement as part of a nationwide $45 million investment programme to accommodate heavier loads have been upgraded on State Highway 1 near Whangarei.

The Otaika Stream Bridge No. 85 and the Kauri railway overbridge have been improved so that heavier loads can be carried by High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMVs) from the Wilsonville quarry, north of Whangarei, to the Portland Cement works, south of the city.

The Transport Agency’s Freight Director, Harry Wilson, says the improvements are part of a national programme to deliver a strategic nationwide network of HPMV routes on some of the country’s busiest freight corridors.

“Because HPMVs carry more freight per trip, they reduce the number of trips needed to improve productivity and cope with increasing freight volumes. 

“In the case of the Otaika Stream Bridge and the Kauri railway overbridge, 56 trucks currently cross the bridges to and from the quarry each day, six days a week.  Allowing HPMVs over these bridges is expected to save 14 trips per day.

“This is great news as it maximises load capacity on a key Northland route, which will lead to direct efficiency gains for industry as well as economic benefits for the local community,” Mr Wilson says

The reduction in travel offers significant commercial advantages  – including lower vehicle operating costs, driver hours and fuel – as well as safety benefits from the reduced crash risk that fewer truck trips provide.

“With the potential for productivity gains, industry will invest in newer, safer truck combinations to operate on New Zealand’s state highways and roads. These newer trucks tend to be quieter and cleaner than the vehicles they replace, while the fuel savings mean reduced carbon emissions for each tonne of freight moved,” Mr Wilson says.

The Transport Agency is improving freight efficiency by increasing network access for HPMVs, which are able to carry greater loads than conventional trucks. This will allow more freight to be moved in fewer trips, and unlock the benefits from industry investment in these newer, more efficient trucks. 

The 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP)(external link) signalled a $45million investment to create a connected national HPMV network on key freight routes around the country.

Editors Notes.

  • To ensure that New Zealand’s road freight is able to be moved efficiently, the Government is promoting the uptake of high productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs). Around 70% (tonnes-kilometres) of New Zealand’s freight is moved by road.
  • The amended Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass came into effect on 1st May 2010 and created a special category of vehicle - High Productivity Motor Vehicles for loads exceeding 44 tonnes, or vehicles exceeding the current maximum dimension limits, or both.  The Rule allows these vehicles to operate under permit, enabling a specific vehicle to use a specific route, or routes (depending on the suitability of the vehicle and the route).
  • HPMVs are longer and/or heavier trucks which will achieve greater freight efficiency; enabling a 14 to 20 percent decrease in truck trips respectively. HPMVs also provide safety benefits, as fewer trips reduce the exposure of vehicles to crash risk. Other countries, notably Australia, are also looking at longer and/or heavier trucks to boost economic performance and manage the growth in freight volumes.
  • To accelerate the uptake of HPMVs, the Government, through the National Land Transport Fund, is investing around $45 million to deliver a strategic nationwide network of 4500 kilometres of HPMV-suitable road by 2015. This will allow more freight to be moved with fewer trips, and unlock the benefits from industry investing in newer, more efficient trucks. 
  • In 2013, around 4150 HPMV permits have been issued by the Transport Agency.
  • The Transport Agency is working with local government and road transport industry representatives  in each region to identify and plan the introduction of HPMVs on key end-to-end routes.   We have analysed the regional industry demand, the commodities being transported, the composition of the vehicle fleet and the most common routes between pickup and delivery.  The routes include local road access to and from depots.
  • To find out more about which bridges are earmarked for improvement, visit the Transport Agency website(external link)