A LONG ROAD: Australia's foremost experts on all things bitumen, Dr Tim Martin (left) and Lith Choummanivong celebrate the publishing of their revered report.
A LONG ROAD: Australia's foremost experts on all things bitumen, Dr Tim Martin (left) and Lith Choummanivong celebrate the publishing of their revered report.

'It's a much rougher road for trucks than it is for cars'

A FIRST-of-its-kind study of the Australian road network has some good and not-so-good news for the trucking industry.

Dr Tim Martin, chief scientist of asset management with the Australian Road Research Board - effectively the CSIRO of transport - and his colleague Lith Choummanivong have just published a pavement performance study that's been 25 years in the making.

It will leave a legacy ranging from a better understanding of how to prolong the life and durability of our roads to reducing the whole-of- life-cycle cost and finding ways Australia could appropriately and fairly charge all road users for their road use, should the current road funding model require change.

The duo's mission was to understand and predict how roads behaved and deteriorated, with various surface maintenance strategies under the stress of heavy vehicle traffic loads and Australian weather conditions, which could range from blazing heat to below zero.

They studied 79 individual sections of road throughout Queensland, NSW, the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia as part of their study, which peers say is the most accurate and reliable study of its kind ever produced.

So is the trucking industry paying its fair share when it comes to the road-user charges?

"As it turns out the new work we've done and models developed from the study have shown that yes, the heavy vehicle people have been getting off fairly lightly,” Dr Martin told Big Rigs.

"Possibly worse than that is that some of the heavier vehicles pay less than their share and some of the lighter heavies pay more than their share and this work has tended to show that as well.

"But if you've got a strong underpinning to the allocation process and how you develop the heavy vehicle charges, well it should be fair.”

Dr Martin said he hoped the study (read the full report at the Austroads website) would better inform a new form of road charging that varied.

"What they call mass distance location type charging, depending on the road you're in and where you're at,” he said.

Dr Martin and Mr Choummanivong also developed an index that measured the experience of a heavy vehicle on the road.

"We want road authorities to be able to use this measure so they can apply more maintenance and rehabilitation works where this index indicates it's a much rougher road for trucks than it is for cars,” DrMartin said.

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