Heavy vehicles diverted from some of our major highways under new compliance protocols are choking inadequate local roads and accelerating the deterioration of an already distressed regional road network.
Faced with mounting road repair bills from the increased traffic volume, regional councils such as Gladstone are demanding an overhaul of how the restrictions are enforced.
The controls are being applied at the discretion of the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), whose officers appear to be exercising a more rigid interpretation of existing restrictions to deter heavy vehicle drivers from using narrow bridges and other deficient infrastructure on state gazetted roads.
According to Gladstone Regional Council Deputy Mayor, Kahn Goodluck, the department’s action is pushing the overflow onto council roads ill-equipped to take the pounding from heavy vehicles, leaving local government with traffic headaches and the repair bills.
“We’ve invested considerable time and resources in the engineering of roads and bridges under our control to assist the companies who rely on our city to move their machinery and products,” he said.
A department spokesman has denied in writing to InQueensland any new restrictions introduced to the Fitzroy region, which includes the Gladstone local government area.
The department’s stance is at odds with Gladstone Regional Council’s position, which was tabled at the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) conference last month in Mackay.
Gladstone Council’s delegation, led by Goodluck, said their roads budget shouldn’t have to wear the extra costs when they were not at fault for the traffic increase on roads they control.
Home to Australia’s fifth largest port facility, owned and managed by the Queensland Government’s Gladstone Ports Corporation, the central Queensland city is a major gateway for machinery and equipment into the resources sector and a burgeoning hub for renewable energy projects such as green hydrogen, and solar and wind farms.
Goodluck said trucks designed to haul massive mining equipment and the new components to build giant wind turbines, were currently at a standstill because they were prevented from using state roads, while assessed as too large for the council-run network.
He said the impasse had some of those companies considering their options, including relocating, which could cause job losses locally.
With other trucks forced onto narrow bridges and culverts – council infrastructure never designed to take heavy vehicles – Goodluck said he held genuine fears for the safety of the general motoring public if there was not a u-turn on the approach to traffic management.
“As a local council we have a responsibility to our residents and safety comes first,” he said.
“But I can only describe TMR’s approach as over-zealous.”
Even the main road from Gladstone Port to the Bruce Highway, which should be a key artery servicing one of the state’s busiest freight routes, has restrictions on heavy vehicles applied, forcing trucks onto locally controlled roads.
Goodluck said the issue was wider than Gladstone, with other councils also under strain from the heavy-handed tactics.
His comments come as Cairns prepares to move 28 massive wind turbines through its port to Neoen’s $373 million, 157-megawatt Kaban wind farm 112 kilometres south of the city.
With blades measuring more than 80 metres in length and each turbine weighing 24 tonnes, Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the project would involve moving some 27,500 tonnes of cargo to the site near Ravenshoe on the Atherton Tablelands over the coming months.
Gladstone Council has identified a breakdown in communication as the main problem, which could be resolved if the Department of Transport and Main Roads took a collaborative approach with local government rather than continuing a culture of “cost shifting and liability shifting”, according to its LGAQ submission.
Council’s submission said any decisions by a road manager that would drastically divert traffic on to another road manager’s network should involve all parties to discuss.
“The desired outcome is a one-network view to heavy vehicle access that facilitates safe and efficient network access,” their submission said.
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