Addressing road network reliability

The VTA has been working on several key issues over the past few months. We have set up a group to tackle road network reliability and have been meeting with CityLink regarding truck breakdowns and their impact on the road network. This month we will also hold the annual VTA State Conference on 28 and 29 May.

Road Network Reliability
A meeting at the VTA offices in April addressed the many problems on the Melbourne arterial, freeway and tollways.

As part of the discussion I invited representatives from VicRoads, Victoria Police, Transurban, RACV and Connect East to hear first hand their problems with traffic and the public.
We quickly indentified all the problems occurring on our major roads.

The major issues in discussion came back to ‘network reliability’. Our roads are affected by many different occurrences. These are:
• Car and truck breakdowns
• Cars and trucks running out of fuel
• Unusual events such as fires or spills
• Loss of loads
• Roadwork
• Public events
• Accidents

Car and truck breakdowns are becoming more prevalent along our arterials and tollways. Outcomes of the meeting were:
• Improve road worthiness of all commercial vehicles;
• Change towing legislation to allow towing for short distances of heavy vehicles to clear roads;
• Charge vehicles for lost time if they run out of fuel, at least for clearing the road;
• Heavy vehicle breakdowns should be investigated by appropriate authorities – fines to be implemented for repeat offenders;
• Need for more and better quality information for events;
• All events affecting road networks should be analysed for cost/benefits or at least costed.
All organisations agreed to work together on the solutions. It was identified that up to 10 per cent of the arterial and tollway capacity is affected by vehicle breakdowns and vehicles running out of fuel.

This is quite an opportunity to increase productivity, improve reliability and relieve congestion across the entire network.

Further meetings are planned to inform the transport industry of future actions to reduce these issues.

Truck Breakdowns
CityLink has made an initial study of the causes and impacts of truck breakdowns on CityLink, to help the VTA and other interested parties gain a better understanding of when, where and why trucks break down on CityLink and the impact that has on the road network, as a guide to better understanding the issue across the broader metropolitan freeway network.

Truck breakdowns, while a relatively small percentage of all breakdowns, have the potential to more severely disrupt traffic than car breakdowns and to cause significant delays, sometimes several hours before normal traffic flow is restored.

CityLink’s tolling and emergency response data places the company in a unique position to understand the impacts on traffic flow and traffic volumes.

CityLink data supports the anecdotal evidence that truck breakdowns on Melbourne’s M1 and Tullamarine freeways happen regularly, significantly disrupt traffic and undermine the efficiency of the road network, and are largely due to mechanical failure occurring when the vehicle is under stress; tackling an incline in congested traffic.

The data indicates that CityLink has on average two truck breakdowns every weekday and a truck breakdown in a running lane on average every second day. The latter has the potential to result in other incidents and more breakdowns.

While CityLink has 24/7 incident monitoring and response, including priority access to heavy haulage, it takes on average just over an hour to clear a truck breakdown (twice the time that it takes to clear a car). The level of disruption and resulting congestion can last up to three hours after the event depending on the location and time.

Additionally the data clearly indicates that hazardous breakdowns increase in conditions where truck systems, mechanical or electrical, are under stress. 81.5 per cent of hazardous breakdowns are due to mechanical failure with 33 per cent occurring during peak periods and 56 per cent occurring during the busy inter‑peak period.

While 22 per cent of all truck breakdowns on CityLink occur in the Burnley tunnel, 30 per cent of all hazardous truck breakdowns occur in the Burnley Tunnel, almost all of which (93 per cent) are due to mechanical failure. (Operating experience suggests most occur on the upward incline.)

Philip Lovel AM
CEO

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