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Prime Mover Magazine

Heavy vehicle width limitations cost OEMs millions in Australia: NatRoad

Governments according to the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) should consider granting general access to heavy vehicles with widths of 2550mm and 2600mm in the case of refrigerated vehicles.

The current maximum width of 2500mm costs manufacturers up to $15-30 million a year to redesign their vehicles, a reduction of between 50 to 100mm than heavy vehicles in other major markets said NatRoad.

These restrictions further discourage uptake of the safer, cleaner model commercial vehicles available at a time when the industry is desperate to reduce the average age of the national heavy vehicle fleet.

Work on the repercussions of making the changes advanced by NatRoad and others is being currently conducted by Austroads.

In a statement on its website, NatRoad acknowledged that under section 8 Heavy Vehicle (Vehicle Standards) National Regulation heavy vehicles were permitted to be 2550mm wide when taking into account load restraint.

“NatRoad believes that the arguments against the move to greater width flies in the face of available evidence,” the organisation said. 

“The arguments are that potential safety risks will arise because of reduced separation between vehicles and vulnerable road users such as cyclists. But the evidence shows that with greater width the capacity to install side underrun protection increases.” 

“These devices protect road users such as pedestrians and cyclists from slipping sideways under the wheels of trucks and trailers and may also improve the aerodynamic performance of heavy vehicles.” 

The assessment, according to NatRoad, of on-road performance for different heavy vehicles shows additionally that the PBS variant of each particular heavy vehicle generally performs better in safety and efficiency terms than the corresponding vehicle subject to prescriptive standards.

For NatRoad the disappointing part of the work being undertaken is that it excludes assessing potential changes to vehicle mass.

It currently supported greater maximum steer axle loads or at least further research on the effects of taking that step when heavy vehicles use certain tyre types.

“The review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law which is now underway should mean that all of the basic building blocks of the current law, particularly about vehicle dimensions, should be under scrutiny,” NatRoad said. 

“A move to 2550mm maximum width should be embraced as part of the review if not sooner.”

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