Planning for Superloads

Because of the considerable size and mass associated with superloads, significant planning is required to identify a safe route, and one that minimises the impact of the superload transport to the Victorian community, road assets and infrastructure.

What is a Superload?

The Department of Transport (DoT) considers a load to be Superload when any of the following apply:

  1. A vehicle and load with a gross vehicle mass of 250 tonnes or greater.
  2. A vehicle with a platform axle load of 15 tonnes or more per axle, with 6 or more axles.
  3. Any high-frequency movement of vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of 170 tonnes or greater that cannot be considered “business as usual”. These high-frequency and repetitive movements have a high impact on the road and bridge network which DoT is required to monitor, manage and keep safe. 

Heavy vehicle access permits are coordinated and facilitated through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, who manage the application process and the issue of permits.  However, there is considerable planning and assessments to be undertaken by various parties to facilitate the transport of a superload.  

Planning for the transport of a Superload

A lead period for planning of up to six months is required by VicRoads to best assist in meeting superload project / program needs.  This lead time is to allow for assessments of the proposed superload over significant assets such as bridges and structures, re-routing if required due to access restrictions or events, risk and contingency planning, engagement with key stakeholders, establishment of bridge monitoring and installation of temporary propping if required, as well as traffic management and disruption management communications.  A checklist has been provided below.

Minimising the impact to the Victorian Community

In addition to the significant mass of the load, the length of a superload transport can be in excess of 100 metres, making access difficult in some cases.  Power poles, traffic lights and street signs may need to be temporarily removed to allow passage of the load.  Furthermore, travel speeds are slowed to approx. 20-30 km/hr and the transport can take up the entire width of the road.  

To minimise the impact to the community, travel of superloads is undertaken late at night/early hours of the morning.  Advice to plan and avoid travel during a superload transport must be communicated early, and where possible, detours are identified for members of the community who need to travel at the same time as a superload.  

Even with these considerations, superload transports can negatively impact the road user experience for the broader community.

Public Safety

Safety of all road users is our primary concern, this includes our staff and contractors, your team and other road users who may be using the network at the same time as your superload. 

As partners in these transports we must consider the risks to all users and ensure plans are developed to manage any risks. This means considering most likely and worst-case scenarios and developing consequence management plans to address actual and potential impacts. 

An emerging trend is that members of the public want to view superload transports. This is discouraged; however, planning must consider crowd and traffic management in and around the transport.  

Information, Advice and Warnings

VicRoads has an obligation to provide information and advice to the community about road status and safety matters. We ask that you support our communications about the superload and that there is a joined-up approach to developing and implementing a communications strategy and timely provision of information and advice. There will be a need to provide advice to key stakeholders, for example emergency services who have a need to continue their business as usual activities in and around a superload, or to ensure appropriate response in the event of a concurrent significant incident or emergency. Details of the route, including timings will need to be shared with trusted partners. Provision to ensure ability to pass and / or get around the superload must be included in planning.

It is highly likely that there will be a need to facilitate live monitoring of the superload to support information sharing with trusted partners.

Protection of road assets and infrastructure

VicRoads has accountability for ensuring the integrity and public safety of road assets and infrastructure. This is important as asset damage or failure is a serious public safety concern and reduces functionality of the transportation network leading to significant impacts for the broader community, which in some instances can have major consequences in terms of closures and diversions.

There is likely to be a need to undertake structural and non-structural work to support a superload and in some cases, monitoring of structures for validation will be necessary. Our technical teams will sometimes require changes to your proposed routes based on risk to assets and infrastructure. This is not done to inconvenience, it is done to ensure impact to assets and infrastructure is minimised and potential for wider community consequence is mitigated.

Superload Checklist

This checklist has been prepared as an indication of the planning requirements and responsibilities.

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