A progressive South East Queensland council has successfully begun the first phase of a $15-$18million three-year strategy to restore its unsealed road network to the benefit of its residents.
South Burnett Regional Council has adopted the concept of patrol grading as an integral part of its plan, establishing a ‘flying squad’ of road maintenance units which can respond quickly and efficiently to immediate needs.
Patrol grading has already resulted in the reduction of resident complaints, according to Aaron Meehan, the Council’s General Manager, Infrastructure.
South Burnett Regional Council has taken delivery of a new Komatsu GD655-5 grader fitted with a specific sharp toothed blade to cut easily into even the hardest compacted gravel, decreasing the need to add new soil to the road surface.
Its efficiency on patrol grading duty is allowing council to concurrently run a works program of re-sheeting its gravel roads while keeping its total network in good repair.
The new unit is one of three Komatsu machines on the council’s rationalised fleet of seven graders, progressively upgraded within a council mandated 10-year life cycle.
According to South Burnett Regional Council plant and workshop co-ordinator Lee Hoad, the GD655-5 was chosen in a competitive tender on the basis of price and known quality of factory maintenance.
Mr. Hoad’s workshops spread across three sites, the result of a 2008 amalgamation of four shires, also maintain three Komatsu WB97R Komatsu back hoes, as part of a 350 strong machinery inventory.
“Komatsu has worked well with us to meet our downtime on-site servicing requirements – in fact they have provided exceptional service,” Mr. Hoad said.
Regular contact between Mr. Hoad’s team and Komatsu’s mobile service units has ensured most service occurs to coincide with council RDO’s, he said.
Machine reliability was an important factor in an ambitious program to ensure each of the Region’s -‘s 1,500 kms of unsealed roads, in a total network of more than 3,044 kms, were graded at least once a year.
Aaron Meehan, appointed to South Burnett Regional Council in 2017, has experienced the concept of patrol grading to good effect on the neighbouring and much larger Western Downs Regional Council, with a road network of more than 5,500 km.
“South Burnett Regional Council has used the RACAS (Road Asset Condition Assessment System) to determine the need to change its strategy across the use of its assets,” Mr. Meehan said.
The GPS based RACAS can be mounted to any vehicle to capture high resolution pictures every 15 metres and record road roughness data.
“RACAS found that most of Council’s unsealed roads were in poor condition and that led to a ramping up of investment in road maintenance,” Mr. Meehan said.
“Where Council would have budgeted $1.6 million annually to a road maintenance program, it has now committed to a three-year restoration program which could be almost ten times that amount.”
Mr. Meehan said four of council’s seven graders were now assigned to patrol duties.
All would be fitted by Komatsu with the Sharq P300 blade introduced on Council’s new GD655-5 grader, to efficiently break up compaction while crushing less gravel, reducing the costly need to add new gravel to the road.
“As part of our new policy we post all intended road works at least three months in advance on Council’s website,” he said. “But in the case of patrol grading we’re capable of reacting within a fortnight to immediate need.”
South Burnett is going through major infrastructure development, including the soon to be commissioned AGL owned 500-megawatt Coopers Gap windfarm, one of the largest in Australia which sits in an area administered by both South Burnett and Western Downs councils.
“People may think that was one of the driving forces in our upgraded road program, but it really wasn’t,” Mr. Meehan said. “Our concentration is on our existing and growing rural industry. Keeping our roads in good operational order is all about ensuring our farmers and graziers can get their livestock in and out.”