Strengthening Australia’s Road Network 

strengthening Australia’s road network

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator manages the access of heavy vehicles on Australia’s road network to ensure a safe, efficient and sustainable industry, by strengthening Australia’s road network. In this article, the NHVR explains just how the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project is progressing.

Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, local government road managers must consent to heavy vehicle access for their road network, based on vehicle, travel and road conditions.

With more than 24,000 local government-owned bridges across Australia, understanding every single structure’s condition and access capability is time consuming and costly.

In 2019, we received $7.96 million in grant funding from the Federal Government to establish the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project (SLGAAP).

The SLGAAP delivers funded engineering assessments of bridges and culverts to road managers, giving them a more comprehensive understanding of their road asset to better inform decisions relating to their heavy vehicle network.

In Phase One of the project, close to 400 assets were assessed across 74 councils. 

In many cases, local councils started the assessment process unsure about approving access for heavy vehicle types to travel across their asset; however by the end, they confidently granted pre-approval for select classes of heavy vehicles.

This has resulted in a number of great outcomes for operators and councils, with access opening up over previously underrated assets, enabling drivers to use shorter, safer routes. Road managers and operators were also able to save time, while maintaining safety and infrastructure outcomes.

Based on the success of Phase One, SLGAAP received a further $12.1 million from the Federal Government in 2021 to continue the project for three years. We expect over 1,000 assets to be completed over the course of the project.

strengthening Australia’s road network

Nominations for Phase Two are now open and we are encouraging local councils to apply for their assets to receive funded engineering assessments. Nominations can be submitted through the NHVR Portal.

During this Phase, we will prioritise assets located on key freight routes that deliver whole of network journey outcomes.

Another component to Phase Two is the introduction of the concept of ‘bridge families’ to support safe and efficient heavy vehicle movement.  

A ‘bridge family’ approach is where similar assets are grouped by age, construction material and type. The capability of one asset can be applied to each asset in the same group to analyse access across each asset within the group.

Using bridge families will enable road managers to use their network in a cost-effective way.

Another functionality we’re close to delivering is an Asset Rapid Assessment Tool (ARAT) that will enable road managers to enter in specific details of a vehicle requesting access and compare it to a reference vehicle. This will generate bridge assessment results in minutes.

We have collaborated with a small cohort of councils to test and provide feedback on the ARAT functionality, and I am excited to launch the tool soon.

Through our National Spatial Program, all road managers will be able to better plan, manage and publish their heavy vehicle networks and supporting road asset data in the NHVR Portal. The platform will provide access to a comprehensive national database of road and bridge asset conditions.

As you can see, we are on the cusp of unlocking more capabilities to deliver further tangible, efficient benefits for road managers and industry.

For more information on SLGAAP

Project outcomes

  • Completed 394 bridge assessments and related engineering reports
  • Assessed 112 vehicle configurations across selected assets
  • Worked with 74 councils to better understand their asset capacity
  • Developed a prototype Asset Rapid Assessment Tool
  • Development of resources for road managers, including Asset Assessment Framework in the Road Manager Toolkit
  • Updated data for 1134 assets in the NHVR Portal Digital Asset Management (ongoing)

Phase Two selection and prioritisation criteria

  • Freight and land use connectivity
  • Regional network access
  • Heavy vehicle demand or traffic composition
  • Functional classification or road hierarchy
  • Lifeline function
  • Strategic alignment

Phase Two priorities

  • Identifying assets on key routes for whole-of-journey network improvement
  • Undertaking targeted asset assessments
  • Developing a framework for bridge family assessment
  • Progressing Asset Rapid Assessment Tool functionality in the NHVR Portal
  • Delivering additional road manager education and training

strengthening Australia’s road network

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