In 2010, road transport operators in New Zealand were facing consequences in the wake of the global financial crisis. They knew one of the keys to lifting the nation’s overall productivity was to increase the productivity of the road transport industry. Increasing the maximum size and weight of trucks in New Zealand had been on the agenda for government ministers and officials for quite some time prior to this, but facing the challenging economic conditions had renewed the impetus for change. However, there were concerns about the impact on road surfaces, bridges and pavements if heavier vehicles were allowed to travel on New Zealand roads. The environmental impact of emissions from larger vehicles also needed to be considered. It was clear that it would take robust science to convince local authorities that high productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs) could be used more widely across road network on both the north and south islands. A unified front needed to be developed across government and New Zealand’s major road transport operators in order to arrive at a viable solution.
Drawing on knowledge from the wider Toll Group – specifically relating to the use of high productivity vehicles in Australian road freight operations – Toll New Zealand began rallying stakeholders and putting together a strong case to support the proposed reform. To help develop and advance a unified prescription for change across the transport sector, Toll New Zealand Group General Manager Greg Miller brought together the country’s major road freight operators to form a Freight Operators’ Forum that convened quarterly for three years. Toll New Zealand representatives also met with agency officials and local authorities to scope and address their concerns – including those related to preserving the integrity of road surfaces under heavier loads. The real breakthrough came when the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) engineering consultants calculated that pavement wear and structural damage for an appropriately designed nine axel unit operating at 50 tonnes was the same or better than the impact of an eight axle rig operating at 44 tonnes. Slightly longer than standard 44-tonne vehicles, these new nine axle units – dubbed 50MAX trucks – would be allowed to operate on designated New Zealand roads with a maximum gross weight of 50 tonnes. The new trailer configurations wouldn’t replace standard trucks completely, but would be introduced as an alternative vehicle option for companies in the industry that would allow for safer and more efficient transport of road freight while also being kinder to the environment. The trucks’ increased capacity – compared to standard vehicles – would allow larger loads to be carried in a single trip. In addition to being more efficient, the reduced number of trucks on the road would also reduce carbon emissions and lower the risk of road accidents. The evidence was considered by government, local authorities and the industry representatives from the Freight Operators’ Forum, with endorsement for reform given by all parties.
Toll New Zealand played a key role in leading a reform that has provided significant benefits for the road freight industry in New Zealand and for the country’s economy more broadly. The use of HPMV 50MAX trucks not only enables payload increases of up to 20 per cent – leading to improvements in operating efficiency – but has also resulted in lower carbon emissions and significant safety benefits through a reduced impact on traffic. And when the new 50MAX permit process was finalised and the call for operating license applications went out, Toll New Zealand’s application was the first to be submitted. Today, the Toll New Zealand 50MAX fleet has grown from an initial eight to 28; all deployed on linehaul operations across the country’s major highway freight routes. The increased load carrying capacity of the new vehicles has meant that Toll’s customers have been insulated from the increased capital costs involved in making the switch to the new high productivity vehicles.
“The 50MAX trucks are helping us – and road transport operators all over New Zealand – build for the future. From increases to productivity to environmental and safety benefits, these new vehicles are providing important benefits to our industry across the country.”