Trucks on parts of the Monash Freeway will soon have a slower speed restriction. VicRoads is about to start a 90km/h trial for all trucks to help make car drivers feel safer.
VicRoads’ chief executive John Merritt says the new restrictions – which will be in place for 18 months travelling between Warrigal Road and the South Gippsland Freeway – are aimed at creating a greater distance between cars and trucks, providing a safe driving experience and addressing car drivers’ concerns about aggressive truck driver behaviour.
“We get a lot of complaints from drivers that they feel intimidated by these heavy vehicles moving at speed and at close proximity,” Mr Merritt says.
The speed reduction to 90km/h begins on 25 August.
A ban on trucks from the right lane will be part of phase two, which is likely to begin mid next year and will run in conjunction with the speed restriction.
About 14 per cent of the 200,000 vehicle journeys made on the Monash each day are trucks. It’s a high volume.
Mr Merritt says car drivers think trucks are speeding but that’s only because car speedometers underestimate speeds whereas truck speedos are accurate.
“Drivers on the Monash think they are doing 100km/h but they are doing 96-97km/h and we get lots of complaints from drivers saying trucks are speeding,” he says. “But trucks are sitting on 100km/h.”
Reduce lane changing
VicRoads wants to see if reducing truck speeds to 90km/h will reduce the need for trucks to weave through traffic or overtake. Mr Merritt says most crashes on the Monash are caused when car drivers change lanes.
While the new speed restrictions will increase the travel time for trucks, Mr Merritt says the impact will be minimal.
“What’s most important for the freight industry is reliability. An incident involving a truck can cause significant disruption.”
During the 18-month Monash Speed Trial, police and VicRoads will increase their presence on the Monash to ensure truck drivers comply with the new limit.
The Monash University Accident Research Centre will evaluate the trial and look for flaws, especially in the early stages.
If the lower speed limit doesn’t achieve what VicRoads hopes, it will likely pair the lower limit with a right-hand lane ban for trucks for the remainder of the trial.
RACV’s general manager public policy, Brian Negus, says RACV has proposed changes to truck speed limits and a right-lane ban for some years. “We are keen to see how the trial works. A package of 90km/h for trucks, a right-lane truck ban and telling everyone to keep to the left unless overtaking is worth evaluating,” Mr Negus says.
Monash speeds up, slows down
The state government is undertaking what it says is an “Australian-first” technology trial that will see speeds on the Monash Freeway move up and down based on real-time traffic conditions.
Minister for Roads Luke Donnellan says the speed management system will see speed limits change in response to road conditions, such as an increase or decrease in traffic volumes, weather conditions and the time of day.
The Dynamic Speed Trial – between High Street, Ashburton, and Glenferrie Road, Toorak – means motorists, when it is safe to do so, will be able to increase their speed from 80km/h to 100km/h on that section of the Monash.
The trial will use existing technology including CCTV, road sensors and overhead electronic signs to change speed limits when conditions allow.
The six month pilot, which started in July, has three phases: the first varies speeds at night, the second will include night and off-peak periods such as weekends, and phase three will run 24-hours a day, including peak periods.
If successful, the state government says it will look at rolling out the technology on other managed motorways across Melbourne.
RACV’s general manager public policy, Brian Negus, says RACV has long pressed for the technology installed along the freeway to be used as intended – actively managing speeds to improve flow and safety.
“Speeds could be increased when conditions are safe and lowered when not. Speeds could also be lowered when congestion is ahead and motorists informed why using the variable speed message signs.”