High-tech camera spots noisy trucks

By John Cousins

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The noise camera and acoustic device that detects and photographs offending truckies.Photo/Andrew Warner
The noise camera and acoustic device that detects and photographs offending truckies.Photo/Andrew Warner

A revolutionary noise camera is being trialled in Tauranga to identify trucks whose engine brakes have disturbed the sleep of a downtown neighbourhood above Takitimu Drive.

The New Zealand Transport Agency was working with trucking industry organisations to achieve compliance from drivers identified by the camera as using noisy engine brakes.

"We will call in local police only as a last resort," the agency's freight director Harry Wilson said.

The camera had been mounted on a pole beside Takitimu Drive, near the intersection with Elizabeth St, and was in response to complaints from some residents living between Hamilton St and Elizabeth St.

Mr Wilson said the camera, a first for New Zealand, photographed only trucks with noisy engine brakes. While good access to the port was critical to the economy, engine braking noise needed to be managed to avoid disturbing residents.

Takitimu Drive was chosen because of the numerous complaints over the years.

"The issue has persisted despite the agency putting up signs asking drivers to not use engine brakes."

Mr Wilson said they were trialling the camera and compliance process to see how it worked, before deciding whether to move the technology to other areas of New Zealand where engine brakes created a disturbance.

"Once the trial is completed in mid-2014, we will look at the findings and make a decision," he said.

National Road Carriers spokesman Grant Turner said engine braking in built-up areas with a speed limit of 80km/h or less was unnecessary, upset residents and destroyed community goodwill.

Bruce Nairn of the Log Transport Safety Council said the camera images, noise readings and time and location information combined to provide a complete picture of engine braking on the section of highway.

The Road Transport Association's Bay of Plenty executive, Charlene Kerr, said that only 1 per cent of the country's truck fleet had noisy braking systems. However, it only took a small number to cause a disturbance, especially at night.

The resident who led the campaign last year, Trudi Kinsella, said there had been a huge escalation in the noise since the second Harbour Bridge and flyover opened. Trucks now roared down off the flyover and applied their brakes on the approach to the Elizabeth St roundabout, whereas previously it had been a slow grind through the Chapel St lights and truckies never picked up much speed.

Ms Kinsella has since shifted from her home in Williams St.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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