What is the VDAM Rule?
The Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule 2002 (VDAM Rule) regulates the size and weight of vehicles able to travel on New Zealand roads.
Why is the VDAM Rule being reviewed?
While the Rule is generally working well, it needs changing so our vehicle fleet can:
- meet projected increases in land-based freight and passenger transport demand
- take advantage of on-going innovation in vehicle technology, design and use which can contribute positively to productivity, safety, and environmental outcomes
- make better use of New Zealand’s considerable investment in roads.
What are the proposed changes?
The main proposals considered in the discussion document are:
- increases to some axle and total vehicle mass limits
- increases to the permitted width limit
- increased limits on some other vehicle dimensions
- allowing ‘50MAX’ vehicles to operate within the 50MAX network without permits
- allowing Road Controlling Authorities, such as local councils, more authority to approve heavier vehicles and specialised loads.
How would the proposed changes affect safety?
The increased capacity expected to result from the changes in dimensions and mass should allow many heavy trucks to carry more freight, so reducing the numbers of trips they need to make. Fewer truck trips will help maintain or improve safety for all road users.
The suggested increases to existing mass limits are relatively small.
The suggested change to the width limit removes an unnecessary inconsistency, allowing more vehicles to use the existing limit, and doesn’t increase the overall maximum width.
The suggested additional height is not expected to pose a significant increased risk for vehicle strikes as the great majority of overpasses and tunnels are comfortably above the new limit.
How would the proposed changes affect the uptake of High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMV)?
The changes proposed will have a small positive effect on HPMV uptake, mainly due to 50MAX vehicles no longer requiring a permit. The expected increase in uptake of HPMVs will be largely the ongoing result of changes made to the Rule in 2010 and 2014, the introduction of 50MAX vehicles in 2013 and the increasing network available for these vehicles.
Why have rules for buses been changed separately from this review?
The current proposal to increase bus mass limits arose from an earlier consultation on increasing the capacity of urban public transport. As this issue has resulted from an earlier consultation, the Government is able to progress it more quickly.
The bulk of the proposals from the VDAM review are new, and therefore further time is required to allow people to consider the potential benefits and implications, and to make their submissions.
Why does the discussion document propose to increase the maximum width of vehicles?
Many heavy vehicles currently operate at 2.55m width, as there is an allowance of 50mm for securing devices around a load, in addition to the 2.50m maximum width. The proposal would allow all vehicles to utilise this full 2.55m width.
This would create significant opportunities for operators of enclosed body vehicles, for example, by increasing their capacity to transport refrigerated goods.
Why does the discussion document propose increases to axle and total mass limits?
Many of New Zealand’s roads, such as State highways, are potentially able to take heavier loads without causing undue damage or wear to the road surface. If mass limits are increased to match the actual capacity of the roads, this will provide productivity benefits for the transport sector, and reduce the number of heavy vehicle trips required on our roads.
Why does the discussion document propose to remove permitting of 50MAX vehicles?
The parts of New Zealand’s road network available to 50MAX vehicles are now generally widely understood by the transport industry and road controlling authorities. This has been assisted by the Transport Agency’s regularly updated online maps of the 50MAX network.
As the majority of the major freight networks are now able to accommodate 50MAX vehicles, there is no ongoing need to require 50MAX vehicles to operate under permit.
How will removing the permit requirements for 50MAX vehicles impact on road infrastructure?
There will be minimal impact on infrastructure as 50MAX vehicles will continue to be restricted to routes that can support them. 50MAX vehicles, because they have at least 9 axles, also have less impact on the road than many vehicles allowed general access.
How will increasing the maximum size and weight of vehicles impact on road infrastructure?
The suggested additional height is not expected to pose a significant increased risk for vehicle strikes as the great majority of overpasses and tunnels are comfortably above the new limit. Owners of tunnels will be advised in advance of any changes to maximum heights coming into force, to ensure appropriate signage can be installed where necessary. The general onus remains on drivers to operate their vehicles safely at all times.
The increase in maximum width to 2.55m would allow all vehicles to utilise the space that many vehicles already operate at (2.50m + 50mm for securing devices), so there would be no impact on road infrastructure.
The proposed increases in allowable weight will have minimal impact on road infrastructure. The change in maximum allowable weight for general access to the road network from 44 tonnes to 45 tonnes will be available only for vehicles with 8 axles or more. These have less impact on road wear than 7‑axle vehicles carrying 44 tonnes. The other proposed changes provide for relatively small increases in weight.
How have stakeholders been involved in preparing the discussion document?
Stakeholders from the transport industry, local government and other sectors (including representatives of other road network users) were involved in workshops, presentations and other discussions about potential changes to the VDAM Rule. These conversations inform the options presented in the discussion document.
How can I make a submission on the discussion document?
The discussion document and submission form are available online at www.transport.govt.nz/vdam(external link).
Submissions may be emailed to VDAM_REFORM@nzta.govt.nz with the words “VDAM Submission” in the subject line, or posted to:
VDAM Rule Review Submissions
PO Box 3175
Submissions are open until Wednesday 17 February 2016.
What will happen next?
The Ministry of Transport and the NZ Transport Agency will consider submissions and provide recommendations to the Government.
Any changes made to the Rule will be included in a draft Rule for which public comment will also be sought.
Final decisions on any changes to the VDAM Rule are expected to be made in mid-2016.