Drivers of over-height trucks who attempt to travel through CityLink tunnels may find themselves brought to a halt in coming weeks, with CityLink and the Victorian Coalition Government announcing an upgrade to an over-height vehicle detection system.
Minister for Roads Terry Mulder said the damage and delay caused by over-height trucks was avoidable and caused unnecessary frustration for Melbourne drivers.
"Trucks have caused damage to the Burnley and Domain tunnels 11 times in the last 12 months, closing lanes and bringing traffic to a crawl for hours at a time," Mr Mulder said.
"These incidents cause hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to the tunnels, but the real cost is much higher, with VicRoads estimates putting the knock-on congestion costs at millions of dollars for the Victorian community.
"We've been lucky no one has been seriously hurt, with over-height trucks creating an unsafe environment for other drivers, causing debris to rain down on other vehicles and littering the road with obstacles which can cause sudden braking or swerving."
CityLink's Road Operations Manager, Peter Doran, said the upgraded system would automatically reduce the speed limits on the approach to the tunnel and activate red traffic lights and a boom gate at the entrance to effectively close the tunnel for all drivers.
"We're very mindful of getting the right balance of limiting the damage and extended delays caused by over-height trucks getting stuck in the tunnels and not unnecessarily inconveniencing other drivers," Mr Doran said.
"That is why we've done a lot of work to make sure we only close the tunnels where a truck is almost certain to cause damage.
"Once we've stopped and isolated the offending truck, we will allow other traffic through the tunnel in a controlled way, while we deal with the over-height truck by escorting it to the nearest freeway exit."
Mr Doran said CityLink already had an extensive warning system in place to identify and warn trucks that they exceeded the 4.65 metre height limits in the Burnley and Domain tunnels.
"There are electronic warnings several kilometres out from the tunnel, overhead barriers with yellow and black paddles which cause a loud sound when hit by trucks more than 4.7 metres high and the radio system ordering trucks to stop once they are in the tunnel," Mr Doran said.
VicRoads Director of Road Operations, Dean Zabrieszach, said while many truck drivers did the right thing it was disappointing that some just weren't getting the message.
"To continue through the tunnels with a truck over the 4.65 metre height is selfish, risks injury to other drivers and damage to the tunnels and drivers could face major fines or legal action," Mr Zabrieszach said.
"Let's not forget that it is not just the tunnels that sustain this kind of damage. We have regular incidents of over-height trucks hitting railway bridges and the like, causing frustrating, costly and avoidable delays to Melbourne motorists."