Road ratings a real harvest problem

23 Sep, 2015 02:00 AM

GROWERS in the Shire of York and other Wheatbelt regions may not be able to legally drive their trucks off their property this harvest as the new transport regulations continue to create waves across the freight and haulage industries.

The Chain of Responsibility regulations introduced earlier this year, mirroring transport laws across the country, has marked the tightening of controls over transporting goods in an effort to improve road safety.

This includes the ratings of roads fit for large truck configurations.

As Main Roads WA has assessed roads across the State for Restricted Access Vehicle (RAV) ratings, the Shire of York has engaged local growers to create RAV routes to CBH bin sites.

However as budgets are not open-ended, the work the shire can do to meet Main Roads WA requirements is limited and some roads may have their ratings downgraded this year, which would affect the roads some truck configurations can use this harvest.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Tony Seabrook farms in the Shire of York and is encouraging growers to be aware of their RAV routes locally to not only avoid being stung by the new regulations, but to improve road safety in the Wheatbelt.

"In York we've been proactive and we've been through all of the roads to look at upgrades with the shire," he said.

"We recognise that people are carting out of some places that are simply not approved, but we need to recognise that and upgrade the road because they will continue to cart out of there regardless.

"The reality is with Chain of Responsibility, if you engage a contractor to cart your grain, if something goes wrong on a road not rated for his truck, you're both liable.

"For these growers the cost of hiring a contractor to cart your grain with one trailer is prohibitive and with the size of harvesters all of a sudden you would need twice the number of contractors."

Mr Seabrook has to take safety precautions as a part of his harvest haulage due to poor line of sight and an acute turning angle as he enters the Quairading Road from York.

He said there were other growers with poor line of sight, narrow roads and acute entry angles that may need to work with the shire to find another option.

"We're all being made much more clearly aware of what these roads are rated as and what we're allowed to do on them," Mr Seabrook said.

"I see the roadblock in this as being Main Roads failing to act with the shires to prevent this.

"They should've seen this a long time ago and been far more proactive about ensuring farmers have access to roads that can carry road trains.

"Main Roads needs to put the time into working with the councils to help with keeping the roads up to a minimum rating that allows people to use them.

"They also need to work at a physical level and see that these intersections work."

Shire of York president Matthew Reid said over the past 10 years there was an underinvestment in road maintenance and as a result some roads were no longer suitable for larger trucks and road trains.

However, he said 18 months ago the newly elected shire council readjusted road funding investment and hoped to bring this lag back into line.

"We've been looking at the whole road network with the view of having roads appropriately graded for their safe capacity," he said.

"But also to create a vision going forward so that we can have a useful network of RAV4 roads so that they can safely transport grain economically from their farm to the bin.

"Farm-to-bin transport is a priority for the Shire of York and certainly for the current council as a part of our strategic review two years ago where we highlighted as a key objective to ensure there would be a significant improvement in our regional roads and local roads network.

"(Farming) is a very important part of our economy, a major employer and we need to be sure farmers can do their job as efficiently as possible because it's a very difficult trading environment on a global scale."

It is understood this problem is being mirrored across the Wheatbelt, with Farm Weekly receiving similar reports from growers further east beyond the Shire of York boundaries.

York grower Peter Boyle is aware one of his properties, which is located to the east and north of the York region, may have a road on one side of it that could be affected by a downgrade in RAV rating, effectively making it illegal for his truck to enter the road from one exit.

He said he was facing a hard decision of how to deal with this, because if they were harvesting on that side of the property, the only option to deliver grain to the bin would be to drive back through the farm to a road rated appropriately for a road train.

"The problem is we can't take a truck through parts of the property because it is too sandy and we'll get bogged," he said.

"We want to be able to cart in safety without breaking the law.

"There's a couple of areas where we're really concerned.

"There's a couple of side roads we cart out of and we've got to enter out on to roads and that seems to be where the problem seems to be the biggest.

"Because of this Chain of Responsibility, everyone is really aware now that there's problems and what they're responsible for."

According to a spokesperson for Main Roads WA, at the request of the Shire of York an assessment of roads has been undertaken and this will conclude shortly, with ratings to be finalised thereafter.



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