50-tonne trucks to be allowed in city

A new class of heavy truck, known as 50Max trucks, will be allowed to use Dunedin roads without needing a special permit.

The Government last year allowed the trucks on state highways, but at present they need overweight permits for each trip on local roads where the weight of the truck is more than 44 tonnes. The 50Max trucks perform on the road, in terms of pressure on the road's surface, no worse than standard 44-tonne trucks because they have an extra axle and can carry up to 50 tonnes.

Local authorities across the country are going through the process of issuing district-wide approvals for the trucks to use local roads.

Six local South Island authorities have so far approved 50Max on their networks, and 26 North Island authorities.

The Dunedin City Council's infrastructure services committee this week agreed to allow the trucks to use all roads in the Dunedin district already able to be used by existing heavy vehicles, except any structures or roads that cannot bear the 50-tonne deadweight.

Transportation policy engineer Jon Visser told councillors the council had been increasingly receiving applications for permits for the trucks to use local roads.

Approving the use of the network would reduce the administration requirements of that effort.

Studies had been done by the New Zealand Transport Agency and the council had looked into the issue. Staff were satisfied the additional weight of the trucks was not expected to cause any extra damage to Dunedin roads.

Any existing restrictions in place for 44-tonne trucks would also apply to the heavier vehicles, and any new restrictions on structures and roads would be notified to NZTA, which would notify 50Max licence-holders.

Because the trucks could carry bigger loads, it was expected fewer truck movements should be required, with only a relatively minor increase in fuel consumption, which should benefit the industries the region relies on, such as logging, dairy and meat, Mr Visser said.

After seeking assurances that staff were confident the trucks were not likely to cause any extra damage to local roads that would require extra maintenance, councillors generally accepted the move made sense, although Cr Jinty MacTavish said it would be better if the Government placed more emphasis on using rail than on the ''likely minor'' environmental benefits from having fewer trucks on the road.

- debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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