Trying to move heavy machinery from paddock to paddock and unable to find out which high-visibility flags to put on your vehicle and which permit to apply for? This week, the farm sector met in Parkes to discuss the permissions and regulations of moving agricultural machinery.
In an ideal world, this should be easy, and it should be the same across all of Australia. Yet, at present, there are 14 different state notices for moving agricultural machinery, and they all have different specifications: While driving a harvester requires skill, figuring out how to get permission to move it around on our roads almost requires a PhD and takes a lot of time and effort.
To better grasp the issue, the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) met this week with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), the NSW Farmers’ Association, a group of farmers wanting to understand the permissions and regulations when moving machinery, and a local road manager in Parkes (NSW). It quickly became clear that everyone around the table wants the same thing: enabling Australian agriculture to prosper and grow. Yet the angles are different: NHVR can only implement the rules laid down by state governments (the Federal Government is not involved in road rules), local road managers have to keep the roads in as good a condition as possible with limited maintenance funding while keeping the population safe, and farmers simply want to get the job done. Their priorities are safety, impact on the roads, making sure the vehicles will actually fit on the roads and public perceptions in the community.
...at present, there are 14 different state notices for moving agricultural machinery, and they all have different specifications.Scott Kompo-Harms, General Manager, Trade & Economics, NFF
The biggest frustration for grain growers in Parkes is the lack of consistency between local councils when approving roads for oversize and overmass agricultural machinery – on top of the frustration associated with having different zones within a state in which different dimensions for agricultural machinery apply. To reduce red tape and to bring more clarity and consistency into the road rules for agricultural machinery, the state governments that have signed up to the National Heavy Vehicle Law – Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania – committed to developing a single agricultural notice, replacing the previous 14 different state notices.
NHVR has prepared a first draft of what the new agricultural notice could look like: in Parkes, NHVR’s Director of Access, Mr Peter Caprioli, explained that signage and lights will be harmonised under the new notice. Mr Caprioli also explained how difficult it is to harmonise the agricultural fleet. Farmers have a range of highly specialised machines that vastly differ in size, length, width, height and mass depending on the production system. A header used for cropping is very different to a cherry picker used in horticulture – but they fall under the same notice. Farmers are concerned that the new notice is future-proof: agricultural machinery is getting bigger, heavier and larger, and, with farm consolidation, may move more frequently between paddocks without being able to avoid main link roads.
The increase in size in agricultural machinery is also a concern for local councils from an ongoing maintenance perspective. Parkes’ Shire Council’s engineer Mr Nathan Koenig fully understood the concerns farmers have, yet highlighted how difficult it is to preserve local roads in country Australia, while ensuring safety of all road users and managing the public perception of heavy machinery on the roads.
Scott Kompo-Harms is NFF's General Manager of Trade & Economics