The Victorian government has revealed there's been a 400 per cent increase in applications for heavy vehicle access to the state's roads.
Regional Roads Victoria Chief Regional Roads Officer Paul Northey told a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee budget hearing road haulage accounted for about 30 per cent of all Australia's freight.
"General road freight is growing by 2.6 per cent a year, particularly for heavy vehicles," Mr Northey said.
"We have had about a 400 per cent increase in applications for heavy vehicle access, primarily driven by the huge infrastructure programs that are in progress.
"We have quite a number of different packages of work, going on at the moment, to try and help support the freight network and to HPFV's move around the state."
He said the recent state budget had set aside $41.6 million to deliver more productive road networks for freight.
In Victoria, a HPFV is a heavy vehicle combination that exceeds 26 metres and/or has a gross combination mass in excess of 68.5 tonnes.
Mr Northey said one of the areas under consideration was bridges, as they would always be required to carry heavier than normal loads.
But the system to apply for permits to travel over some bridges had always been "clunky.
"Our bridges are a lifeline for many communities and we have to be really conscious of the safety issues, of allowing heavy vehicles and making sure that can be done in a safe manner."
Mr Northey said a $4 million upgrade to the Henty Highway between Horsham and Lascelles would enable important grain freight to travel down from the Mallee to Portland.
"We have a number of different bridge projects, we are also investing in, and they are largely to take that additional weight of those HPFV's I refer to," he told PAEC.
"We have been able to highlight and ascertain the key routes for freight vehicles, right across the state.
"We have a number of really important routes, in the north-west of Victoria, as well."
In the last few years, he said, big grain crops meant it was essential to have upgraded routes to take freight from north to south, particularly to Portland.
Roads Minister Ben Carroll told PAEC the state governments' "Big Build" program was one of the reasons behind more and more HPFVs using the state's roads.
Mr Carroll said around 3,000 kilometres of roads had been added to the pre-approved HPFV network.
"This means these vehicles can now access more than a quarter, some 27 per cent, of the road network," Mr Carroll said.
He said the budget spending was intended to help speed up the application process for HPFV's "to get around our state a lot more effectively and efficiently.
"Our investment is effectively identifying and prioritising high productivity routes, that can then support getting those vehicles to where they need to go," he told the hearing.
"A lot of work, over multiple years, goes into this."
That reduced costs and saved farmers and businesses time by eliminating the need for individual route assessments.
The new networks will be published online and include key freight routes along the Bass Highway, Murray Valley Highway, Wimmera Highway and Ballarat-Maryborough Road.
A-Doubles that met the HPFV specifications, including strict safety and emissions requirements, would have improved access to those routes.
"Under our government, more and more investment has occurred," Mr Carroll said.
He said part of the expansion of the HPFV network involved cutting red tape.
"'We are making sure the HPFV's right across the network have a lot more quicker application process, when they might want to shift freight," he said.