Centre for Road Safety

Overheight vehicle safety (five minutes, 48 seconds)

[At a depot, heavy construction equipment sits on a truck's flatbed trailer.]

Title: Overheight Vehicle Safety. Presented by the NSW Government, Transport for NSW.

[Two men in fluorescent shirts walk from the office, shake hands and part.]

Man: Hop in. Safe journey.

Trent, the truck’s driver: Yeah, cheers.

[As he walks toward the truck cabin, Trent checks documents on a clipboard. Harley’s Freight Logistics is painted on the truck’s door. Mr Harley, the manager, approaches. He wears a khaki shirt with a Harley's logo above the pocket.]

Mr Harley: All set to go then?

Trent: Hey, Mr Harley. Where did you come from?

Mr Harley: Call me Jim. All the drivers do. Seeing as it's your first time out with us, I thought I'd just make sure you've measured your load to ensure it's not overheight, and double check everything's been properly restrained.

Trent: Are you saying I don't know my rig, Jim?

Mr Harley: Hey, I'm sure you know what you're doing. But every new load means a new height and new risks. Every run we do.

[Images show a truck travelling a country road, a traffic jam on a highway, traffic camera footage of a truck stopped at the entrance of a tunnel, a truck veering across multiple lanes of traffic, and a truck braking suddenly on the approach to a tunnel and skidding into adjacent lanes.]

Mr Harley: I've seen too many over-height trucks crash into the underside of bridges and tunnels, causing all sorts of damage. If that happens to you, mate, you'll be looking at thousands of dollars in fines and losing demerit points or your interstate privileges. You could even lose your heavy vehicle licence.

Graphic: Penalties include Fines. Loss of: demerit points, interstate driver privileges, heavy vehicle licence.

Mr Harley: Not to mention you could injure yourself or some other poor bugger on the road. I mean, don't forget. It's my family name on the truck. The bills for any damages, repairs, emergency response, any necessary investigations all get sent back to me. But it'll likely cost you your job.

An over-height crash affects everyone. All up and down the chain of responsibility, from consigners to dispatchers. Even blokes like young Barry back there.

[A young man in a fluorescent Harley's shirt takes gum from his mouth as he steps away from the truck.]

Barry: What's that, Mr Harley? Uh, I mean, Jim.

[Mr Harley and Trent walk along the trailer.]

Graphic: A green vertical arrow shows truck and load 4.3m high.

Mr Harley: So a truck with a maximum height of 4.3 metres has access to all of New South Wales’ road networks.

Trent: Mine's 4.3.

Mr Harley: Yeah, but like I said, with this load plus your truck, it's always best to double check.

[Barry extends a measuring pole to reach a high point on the load.]

Mr Harley: Interstate drivers may not realise, but New South Wales has more bridges and tunnels with low clearance heights than any other state in Australia.

Graphic: NSW has more low clearance bridges and tunnels than any other Australian states

Mr Harley: So know your load height and plan your route before you set off, even if you are under 4.3 metres.

Graphic: know your load height and plan your route

Mr Harley: You know, lots of drivers assume that bridges and tunnels have a bit more of a height allowance than the 4.3 metres you see on the sign. But never assume. Because that CCTV footage you see on the 6 o'clock news showing you caused hours of traffic delays because the top of your truck hit a tunnel will make an ass out of you and me. Speaking of which, how's it going there, Barry?

Barry: Oh, 4.5 metres, Jim.

Graphic: An orange vertical arrow shows the truck and load height is 4.5m.

Graphic: Higher than 4.3m & up to 4.6m = travel on approved routes only

Mr Harley: 4.5. So that means you'll have to take a network of roads approved for trucks higher than 4.3 metres and up to 4.6 metres.
Trent: Yeah. Sorry, Jim. I could've sworn it was under 4.3 metres.

Barry: When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.
Mr Harley: Hey, that's my line. He's right, though. And while we're at it, let's check out what routes you can take now that you can only drive on approved roads in New South Wales.

Trent: Yeah, sure.

Mr Harley: Yeah?

Trent: Let's do that.

Mr Harley: Alright.

[Mr Harley and Trent check some paperwork and use an iPad.]

Graphic: iPad screen shows a map of Sydney with a route marked in yellow. Also marked are the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, the Eastern distributor the M5 East and the Cross City Tunnel. Photos show trucks in tunnels among debris from equipment and other vehicles, and a truck sitting at an awkward angle on a city road.

Mr Harley: Over-height trucks that attempt to use bridges and tunnels like the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, the Eastern Distributor, the M5 East, the Lane Cove Tunnel and the Cross City Tunnel can cause major damage to things like lights and sprinklers and put you and other road users at risk. So it's important to plan ahead and know what routes you can take.

Mr Harley: When choosing your route, don't just rely on your GPS.

[The iPad screen shows a road map of the Sydney area.]

Graphic: Use Restricted Access Vehicle (RAV) maps to plan your route, not GPS

Mr Harley: Plan your trip using the Restricted Access Vehicle maps, available on the New South Wales Roads and Maritime website.
Graphic of sign: Lane Cove Tunnel. Low tunnel clearance 4.4m

Mr Harley: Once you're on the road, take notice of any warning signs by the side of the road before entering bridges and tunnels, so you know what the height restrictions are.

Graphic of sign: Lane Cove Tunnel. Tunnel clearance 4.4m. No dangerous goods in tunnel.

Graphic of sign: Prepare to stop. M2 Motorway. Pacific Highway 5; Falcon St 9; Sydney 14; Airport 26

Mr Harley: But the warning signs are a last resort.

Graphic: An large electronic STOP sign blocks the entrance to a tunnel.
Mr Harley: If you plan ahead, you shouldn't have those kind of problems. OK?

Trent: Yeah, got it.

Mr Harley: Yeah.

[Mr Harley turns to Barry.]

Mr Harley: And you, uh... You took your measurements from the highest point of the truck?

[Barry looks at the truck's load. A section in the middle is higher than the back section.]

Barry: No. I'll...I'll do it again.

[Barry extends the measuring stick until the bar reaches the top of the highest point in the load.]

Barry: It's grown. It's, uh, 4.6 metres now, Jim.

Mr Harley: Well, you guys got lucky, didn't you?

Graphic: An orange vertical arrow shows the load near the back of the truck as 4.5 high. A red arrow near the centre of the load shows the highest point as 4.6m high. Higher than 4.6m = specific permit required

Mr Harley: If it was any higher than 4.6, you'd have to get a special permit from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, which means your routes would be even more restricted.

Trent: We'd be able to organise that on short notice, though, right?

Barry: Nope, that permit can take up to four weeks to organise, so it's important to plan ahead, because the truck can't go anywhere without it. Which can result in some very unhappy customers.

Mr Harley: Which almost certainly means I'd be footing the bill. Anyway... But don't worry about that now. Let's look at the Restricted Access Vehicle Maps, see what routes you are going to be able to take.

[Mr Harley and Trent climb into the truck’s cabin. They get in the cabin. A fluorescent yellow and orange flag flies from the truck. Yellow and black sign reads 'Over’ and ‘Size'. Trent sits behind the wheel. In the passenger seat, Mr Harley checks documents.]

Mr Harley: OK. That all seems to be in pretty good order. I can see you've got your route mapped out to stay clear of any bridges and tunnels your truck could damage. Lastly, make sure you keep your load safe and secure by taking notice of any warnings and locks in your cab. And if something does go wrong, you realise you're coming to an unexpected bridge or tunnel, pull over or come to a halt in a safe place and radio back to your base.

Graphic: if you need to stop before entering a bridge or tunnel pull over safely and contact NSW Roads & Maritime Services.

Mr Harley: Your employer should then contact Roads and Maritime straight away. So they can help fix the situation.

Trent: Yeah.

[Barry knocks on the driver's door. Trent opens it.]

Barry: Hey, fellas. Boss is pretty keen for this load to get moving.

Trent: I thought you were the boss, Jim.

Mr Harley: (smiles) Not a chance, mate. My wife's the boss around here. She calls the shots. Hey, have a great trip and get home safe.

Trent: Cheers, mate.

Barry: And buckle up, buttercup.

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