Celebrating two years of 50MAX


This month marks two years since the 50MAX programme began helping the freight industry shift more freight on fewer trucks.

For the past few years Kiwi freight operators have been turning to high productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs(external link)) to drive increased productivity and safety in their business. 

HPMVs are heavier and/or longer truck combinations that can carry more freight than standard truck combinations, where it is considered safe to do so.   

Crucial to the success of HPMVs has been the 50MAX initiative. These specially designed vehicle combinations have nine axles, with a slightly longer wheel base, allowing them to access much more of the road network due to their lower impact on roads and bridges. 

“This October marks two years since the first 50MAX permits were issued and the figures tell the story of its success,” says Harry Wilson, Freight Portfolio Director at the Transport Agency. 

“In that time over 5700 permits have been issued and around 280 million kilometres have been travelled on 50MAX trucks.” 

By moving more freight on fewer truck trips with 50MAX the Transport Agency estimates that around 28 million kilometres of travel has been avoided with an estimated commercial saving of between $45 million and $55 million. 

Besides the financial savings there are road safety benefits by having fewer truck trips on New Zealand roads. These HPMV trucks come with improved safety features such as electronic stability control. There are also benefits for towns and cities from having less heavy trucks travelling through, particularly considering the amount of freight being moved across New Zealand is growing as the economy expands. 

None of this would have been possible without the enthusiasm and investment of the road transport industry and the support shown by local government, Harry says. “The success of HPMV, and 50MAX in particular, is a story of partnership.”  

“From an industry perspective 50MAX has been extremely successful,” says Ken Shirley, Chief Executive of the Road Transport Forum. “We are pleased with the way the initiative has been enhanced and improved over time and we look forward to continuing with 50MAX in the future.” 

In two years over 90 per cent of Councils have come on board with 50MAX access, either issuing their own 50MAX permits or delegating to the Transport Agency, providing almost nationwide access.

The Gisborne District Council signed up early on to 50MAX to handle the increasing volume of logs in to its port as well as freight heading south. The head of Gisborne’s joint roading agency Tairawhiti Roads and former Council Roading Manager Dave Hadfield says “50MAX reduces the number of vehicles on the combined network road and eases congestion when accessing the port”. 

“While we’re delighted with this progress to date, we’re not going to sit back as we know there’s more we can do to enable greater use of HPMVs,” Harry says.  

The latest National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) for 2015-18(external link) outlines a programme of investment in freight to continue opening up new routes for HPMVs, ensuring better road and rail integration to move freight, work to improve bottlenecks around our busiest freight routes and provide better connections between our productive heartlands and our international ports.