B-triples are great for the industry
IT MIGHT be a case of dipping just one toe in the water, but the NSW government took a tentative step towards improving road transport efficiency by approving the use of B-triple combinations on road train routes west of the Newell Hwy in central NSW.
As always, when boundaries are shifting, the rules are tight until authorities are comfortable with compliance.
Prime movers must have at least 500hp (373kW) and be capable of maintaining a minimum speed of 70kmh on a 1% gradient at a maximum gross combination weight of 84.5-tonnes.
A minimum 10% startability and 12% gradeability is also required.
Startability is the ability to take off from a standing start, and gradeability is the steepest slope on which the rig can keep going forward.
The rigs will also be limited to 90kmh at all times, which is not all that bright as it creates a mismatch with other heavy-duty traffic.
But the dumbest move will restrict the use of B-triples across state boundaries, because in NSW the prime mover has to be speed-limited to 90kmh.
Yet another case of having to designate specific trucks for NSW routes.
The argument for larger multiple combinations is pretty clear from an efficiency point of view.
And in Australia we have a great deal of experience in dealing with these lengths, with most motorists that drive the outback familiar with overtaking triple road trains at times.
Driver education is the key, a point that is usually lost on the academics who only ever understand road transport from a desk covered with spreadsheets.
Industry data paints a pretty clear picture of the effect on logistics and emissions by utilising the advanced technology and pulling power of today's new trucks.
In comparing a rigid to a B-triple, the gap in productivity is breathtaking, and should excite any environmentalist.
Take for example a task to carry 1,000-tonnes of freight a distance of 1,000km.
The graph shows that a rigid 6x4 truck will take around 77 return trips to shift the cargo.
A B-triple will do the same job in 17. In rough terms, that means less than a quarter of truck movements.
The B-triple will use 72-litres of fuel per 100km, whereas the rigid will use 28.
But with a lot less trips, the actual fuel used by the B-triple is 24,480 litres vs 43,120 for the rigid.
At say $1.49 per litre, that drops costs by $27.77 per tonne.
Those kind of savings are critical to the Australian transport picture as freight demands rise and infrastructure gets more expensive to build.
But as well as the dramatic savings in cold hard cash, the move towards larger combinations has a significant effect on the environment as well.
In the above comparison, the B-triple will generate just 57% of the emissions generated by the rigid truck.
When you add in the huge gains in diesel engine emission technology, the picture not only looks a lot brighter, you can actually see it more clearly.
Back in 2006, when Euro 3 technology arrived, the emissions from one new truck were less than those produced by 60 trucks built prior to 1995.
My last drive of a B-triple was around a twisty hill course in Victoria that tested the truck's brakes and steering to the maximum.
The experience made it clear that these rigs are the pinnacle of safety and technology and deserve rapid support of governments, so that we can meet the demands the community places on road transport most efficiently.