A weekly round-up of events in Australia. This week: Melbourne forces trucks out of the inner city; cleaning up asbestos roads; obeying road signage fail; road train safety inspections.
Melbourne begins to force dirty trucks out of the city; 24-hour truck bans on the way
Trucking groups, the government of the state of Victoria and local residents groups have teamed up to make life more difficult for the operators of dirty old trucks.
In an Australian-first, the state government has launched the Smart Freight Partnership, which will create an “Environment Freight Zone” in the inner west of the city of Melbourne, adjacent to the port of the same name. This is the area around Somerville Road, and Moore, Francis and Buckley Streets.
Melbourne is Australia’s busiest container port with three million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of container throughput per year. It’s a river port and it’s located right in the heart of the city. And that means that there’s a lot of road freight traffic out of the three main box terminals in the port.
Truck access to the zone will be cut initially by two hours in the first two years and then by a further two-hour reduction per day in subsequent years. An on-the-spot penalty of A$165 (US$116) will apply.
However, trucks that were manufactured before January 1, 2010, and which do not meet the Australian Design Rule 80/03 or Euro V emission control standards will have their access times cut.
“The curfew changes aim to strike a balance for the local community and transport operators by addressing concerns about safety, noise and air quality, while keeping freight moving effectively. The measures also deliver driver awareness training and encourage transport companies to use state-of-the-art cleaner and quieter trucks,” the state government said.
Minister for Ports and Freight, Melissa Horne, commented “we’re closely working with the transport industry to further encourage the use of state-of-the-art, cleaner and quieter trucks, that will benefit both industry and residents in local streets around our ports.”
Meanwhile the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), which represents truck operators, and the local residents body, the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group, welcomed the announcement as it has evolved from a joint proposal from the two bodies to government in 2017.
“A key aim of the proposal was to lessen the environmental and amenity impacts of trucks in the community, whilst providing an economic and productivity incentive for freight operators that invest in new trucks with lower emitting, ‘cleaner’ engines,” the VTA said.
Encouraging investment in a cleaner fleet of vehicles is important in Australia as the average truck fleet age is about 15 years. That’s one of the oldest truck fleet average ages in the developed world, the VTA says.
Trucking access to the restricted zones will include industry-led driver awareness training on local access, safety and amenity.
“Industry and community groups can achieve great things when they work together and acknowledge their individual needs and interests can be achieved through compromise and mature discussions,” said the VTA’s CEO, Peter Anderson.
Maribyrnong Truck Action Group President Martin Wurt said “we are pleased the Victorian Government continues to recognise our community needs solutions to the issue of trucks on residential streets… we will continue to work with all stakeholders to achieve a final agreement.”
Trucks will be completely removed from the inner west of Melbourne when 24-hour truck bans go into effect in 2022. That’s the date that the new under-the-city tunnel from the West Gate Freeway to the Port of Melbourne opens. A series of city-to-elevated-highway ramps will also open at the same time, enabling dangerous goods and over-height trucks to avoid residential streets.
Deadly asbestos-contaminated roads attract remediation and repair attention
The State government of Western Australia has announced a project to repair and remediate a stretch of road that has been contaminated for decades with one of the deadly forms of asbestos.
Western Australia’s state government and the Shire of Ashburton (a type of local government area in north west Australia) will together chip in up to A$850,000 for upgrading and improvement works.
The Roebourne-Wittenoom Road will connect with an upgrade of the Karratha-Tom Price Road, which begins this year. That project will provide 155 kilometers of fully sealed road in “rugged” terrain that would otherwise be impassible in the wet season. The Karratha-Tom Price Road itself was formerly heavily contaminated with asbestos but a remediation project removed 12,000 cubic meters of the deadly mineral from the road. It was reopened to traffic in February 2019.
The nearby town of Wittenoom and its associated areas is a tragic reminder of the deadly legacy of asbestos mining in Australia. Three asbestos mines, Wittenoom, Colonial and Yampire, operated in the area from the 1930s to the mid-1960s. They were mining crocidolite, otherwise commonly known as blue asbestos, which is a naturally occurring mineral in Australia.
Waste materials from the mines were dumped into stockpiles called “tailings.” Material was also taken from the stockpiles and used to make roads in and around Wittenoom. Asbestos fibres were widely spread over the years from the tailings owing to wind and water erosion.
Asbestos fibres in the 46,840 hectares of contaminated land can be easily disturbed and inhaled simply by people walking through the area. The Department of Health has designated the whole area as “not suitable for any form of human occupation or land use.”
The Shire of Ashburton has ordered the closure of all roads in the area to all traffic, other than to residents and associates, to all traffic at all time for 12 months to reduce potential asbestos exposure.
“Asbestos fibres from past mining operations in Wittenoom have already resulted in thousands of fatalities among miners, residents and visitors to the town,” the Western Australian Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage states.
Inhalation of asbestos fibres causes cancers of the tissues surrounding the lungs (mesothelioma), scarring of the lungs and lung cancer.
There’s a reason the authorities spend money on road signage…
A driver of a B-Double who ignored multiple road signs is regretting his actions after being issued with multiple infringement notices for disobeying “No Truck” signs, driving off-route, breaching working hours rules and operating with defective trailers.
Still, it could have been worse.
He nearly drove off a bridge and into a river in the dark of night. The back of his trailer was hanging over the edge of the bridge.
Fortunately for him, his heavy freight truck got stuck after he drove through safety barriers.
A heavy tow truck was able to pull the vehicle to safety.
The truck driver told safety officials that he had got lost after missing his turn onto the motorway. Desperate to get back on the right road he ignored multiple warning signs. He claimed that he was unable to turn the truck around and so carried on. Until, that is, he nearly ran off the road and into a river.
Local authorities were not happy.
“The driver’s disregard for multiple warning signs led to significant cost, time and inconvenience to [the New South Wales] Police, emergency services and the wider community with the extensive damage caused to the safety guard rails, requiring Broughton Pass to be closed for three days while repairs were carried out. There is no excuse for heavy vehicles to be in areas where the roads are not suitable for their size and mass.
“It is completely unacceptable that one truck driver disobeying multiple warning signs should cause significant disruption to other road users.
“The signs are there for a reason,” said a spokesman for the local regulator, Transport for New South Wales.
West Australian safety regulator carries out road train inspection campaign
Safety regulator WorkSafe, in the state of Western Australia (WA), has announced it is carrying out a “proactive inspection program” to look at safety issues for commercial vehicle drivers.
The campaign will run until the end of the 2019-2020 financial year (i.e. until the end of June 2020) and will take place at road train assembly areas around Western Australia.
“The two areas the inspectors will focus on are fatigue management and working in isolated areas,” WorkSafe Director Chris Kirwin said.
“We think that employers are largely in compliance with WA’s fatigue management laws, but we are still finding companies that are not fully complying with their obligations with regard to fatigue management.
“The inspectors still find problems with record-keeping, mandatory medical checks for drivers, appropriate sleeper cabs and driver training. Most employers now seem to understand that the laws are there to ensure that commercial vehicle drivers are given sufficient rest to allow them to function efficiently. However, it is always worth reminding the industry that the human body has limitations, and adequate sleep and rest are essential to safely undertake long-distance driving,” he added.
The inspectors will also be looking at preparedness for work in isolated area because there have been many drivers who have had a vehicle breakdown in the vast and remote areas of WA and have then lost their lives.
Inspectors will be checking that commercial drivers who drive into the Outback are provided with everything they need to stay safe. Although the primary aim of the inspection campaign is to deliver information to employers, WorkSafe WA warned that enforcement action would be taken if breaches of the law are discovered.