Why is Council load limiting these bridges?

    Load limits are applied to roads and bridges in order to protect the road pavement and bridge structure. 

    For example: a truck with dual tyres loaded to 8.2 tonnes will cause 2250 times more damage to the road pavement than a car. A small increase in the load to 10 tonnes will cause 4500 times more damage to the road pavement or bridge structure than a car.

    How does the load limiting of bridges affect me?

    Council engaged a suitably qualified and competent structural engineer to undertake a Level 3 Bridge Structural Assessment of all timber bridges in our network. The engineering report presented to Council has identified bridges containing highly deteriorated or undersized elements, thus necessitating Council to apply specific load limitations to these bridges, effective immediately.

    NSW Road Rules stipulate that a driver must not drive past a Bridge Load Limit (GROSS MASS) sign or Gross Load Limit sign if the total of the gross mass (in tonnes) of your vehicle, and any vehicle connected to it, is more than the gross mass indicated in the sign. (NSW Road Rules Reg 104)

    Significant penalties apply for breaches of the Road Rules.

    Most average sedans and four wheel drives should not be impacted by load limiting restrictions.

    What type of vehcile will be affected?

    Councils’ Local and Regional road network are utilised by many types of vehicles including smaller sedans, motorcycles, medium sized commercial vehicles, school buses, and larger heavy vehicles.  

    In NSW under National road transport reforms, the Roads and Maritime Services has classified vehicles per “general access” and “restricted access”, related to vehicle mass, dimensions and configuration, or a combination of all three.

    Mass limits apply at all times for “general access” heavy vehicles, ie for all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM). Under these limits, vehicle combinations may operate to a maximum loaded mass of 42.5 tonnes.

    With the recent structural assessment of Councils’ timber bridges, there will be a restriction on General Access Heavy Vehicles as per load limits that will be located on signage at each affected bridge and also in advance of the bridge to enable advisory notification.

    The new load limiting status for Bellingen Council timber bridges enables heavy vehicles of unladen (TARE) and/or laden (GVM) to use the road and bridge, but the GROSS MASS of the signage must not be exceeded.  For example, If the gross mass of an occupied school bus servicing the Deervale Road at Dorrigo exceeds the 16 tonne Gross Mass Limit for the Little Murray Bridge, then access is restricted.

    Can I discuss the new restrictions with Council?

    Yes.  Please contact Joshua Corlis, Civil Projects Engineer at Bellingen Shire Council on (02) 6655 7300 or jcorlis@bellingen.nsw.gov.au

    How long will the load limiting of these timber bridges be in place?

    Council has prepared strategic plans for rehabilitation or renewal of not just the load limited bridges, but also for the remainder of its’ timber bridge inventory, as a large number of these also require maintenance or renewal over the longer term in order to maintain the network to satisfactory standards.

    Bridges will be rehabilitated or renewed as per the prioritisation of works. 

    Council will continue to apply for grant funding under the Australian Government’s Bridges Renewal Programme as well as the NSW Government Infrastructure Renewal programme (Fixing Country Roads) to replace specific bridges and supplement Councils Long term Financial Plan. 

    What is the involvement of the Weight Loads Group?

    The Mid North Weight of Loads Group works in co-operation with the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to protect and prolong the life of our roads by reducing the incidence of overloaded vehicles. Mid North Weight of Loads Inspectors patrol State, Regional and Local Roads conducting random mass checks on heavy vehicles to ensure they comply with legislated mass limits.

    In addition to issuing breaches for overloading, the group focuses on educating truck operators and businesses in making sure their loads are legal and not causing damage to roads. Truck weighing is offered on request and the group can be contacted for advice on proper loading.

    Bellingen Shire Council is an active participant of the Mid North Weight of Loads Group.

    The bridges to be load limited, along with bridges that are currently restricted, will be supplied to the Weight of Loads Group to ensure that monitoring of overloaded vehicles is carried out.

    Further information regarding fines, weighing procedures and weight limits can be found on the group’s website Mid North Coast of Loads Group http://www.mnweightofloads.org.au/

    If heavy vehicle operators are concerned about the legitimacy of their vehicle to meet these new loading regulations, they are encouraged to contact Council, or the Mid North Weight of Loads Group.