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Published: 2009-08-04 00:00:00

The Waikato Regional Transport Committee (RTC) has rejected proposals that would allow trucks weighing up to 53 tonnes to be used on specified routes.

A draft amendment to the relevant Land Transport Rule includes a plan to allow truck weights to rise from 44 tonnes to 53 tonnes.

It has been floated by the Ministry of Transport as a way of making road freight more economical and to lower the number of heavy vehicles on New Zealand’s roads.

However, the plan has raised a range of concerns, such as heavier vehicles potentially causing more wear and tear on roads, and posing a safety threat if they had to divert to roads that weren’t designed to take them.

At its meeting yesterday, the Environment Waikato-chaired RTC said it could not support the proposal because it had insufficient information about the way the new rule would be operated.

"The RTC supports the idea of making freight more efficient and cost-effective but needs a lot more information before it could consider agreeing to the rule change," said RTC chairman Norm Barker of Environment Waikato.

The committee endorsed a submission on the proposal by consultant Katy Marriott, developed in consultation with the Regional Advisory Group of officials on transport, with the proviso that it contained a more explicit rejection of the ministry’s current suggestion.

The submission said allowing heavier vehicles was likely to increase road maintenance and renewal costs for local councils.

It said current heavy vehicle rules were not well enforced and that bringing in even heavier vehicles would need greater enforcement of the rules.

Another key submission was that drivers should also get special training before they were allowed to operate bigger rigs.

"We will ask that the Ministry of Transport allows us to make a verbal submission on their proposal. We want to make sure that officials have a very clear understanding of the Waikato’s reservations about allowing such big rigs on our roads," said Cr Barker.

"The Waikato already has the highest road toll of any regional council area and trucks figure far too prominently in our crash statistics. So we would require satisfactory clarification of a whole range of issues before we could seriously consider giving our support to a rule change," said Cr Barker.