State Highway 7 has been opened up as a route for high productivity 50MAX trucks with the strengthening of the Calf Creek Bridge, near Hanmer Springs.
The NZ Transport Agency’s Southern Regional Director Jim Harland says State Highway 7 is a strategic freight route between the east and west coasts of the South Island.
"The local communities stand to benefit from this development as 50MAX allows for safe and more efficient transportation of freight goods. The increased payloads mean more efficient freight movement, which can lead to economic benefits for producers, customers and our communities."
50MAX trucks are slightly longer than standard 44-tonne vehicles, have an additional axle (nine in total) and can have a total weight of up to 50 tonnes. Since being introduced in late 2013, almost 1000 50MAX permits have been issued to freight operators throughout New Zealand.
He says the vehicles have a neutral impact on the bridges and roads, however, open up 90 per cent of the country’s roads to higher payloads, considerably bringing down freight costs to and from communities in New Zealand’s heartland.
Mr Harland says of particular importance to road users and local communities are the safety features of 50MAX trucks. "50MAX trucks can improve road safety because of the reduction in truck trips to move the same amount of freight; fewer trucks on the road will mean a reduction in crash risk.
"50MAX trucks must meet the same high safety standards as other High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMVs), including increased resistance to roll over and the inclusion of electronic braking systems."
He says a number of operators are also investing in speed limiting, GPS monitoring, weight load cells, Electronic Stability Control, electronic rod-user charges and a range of other safety measures.
The Transport Agency recommends that all road transport operators consider the use of such technology.
The Calf Creek Bridge was originally built in 1954 and reassessed in 2012. The $200,000 programme of work has involved placing steel plates on the trusses to improve load capacity, as well as an extensive seismic retrofit of the bridge.
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