A railway overbridge in central Whangārei has been hit eight times in the last decade but fixing the problem will likely require a full bridge reconstruction at a cost of $20 million.

The cost estimate by Whangārei District Council follows the latest incident on Monday when a Waste Management-owned rubbish truck slammed into the overbridge on Rust Ave and rolled while its hoist caught the rear of a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Initial police investigations showed an Auckland-based truck driver, who was brought to Whangārei as a reliever, was on his first job and was following his GPS when the incident happened.

KiwiRail acting chief operations officer Henare Clarke said eight incidents involving mainly trucks hitting the overbridge, with a height restriction of 3.4m, have been reported in the last 10 years.

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"We treat safety as our paramount concern, and we have been providing information on bridge heights for GPS companies to ensure their data is as accurate as possible and that transport firms are able to plan safe routes."

The detail of how information was used was determined by GPS companies and transport firms, he said.

Retailers along Rust Ave closest to the overbridge have had enough of the crashes are calling on WDC to put additional security measures in place before anyone gets killed.

Megan Dickinson is calling on authorities to act before someone gets killed in a crash involving a low overbridge. Photo/Tania Whyte
Megan Dickinson is calling on authorities to act before someone gets killed in a crash involving a low overbridge. Photo/Tania Whyte

"I've been running my business for one-and-a-half years and there's been three major accidents involving trucks during that time. All those trucks must have been going quite fast to tip like that. It's insane," Megan Dickinson said.

She runs Megan Dickinson Gallery which is the closest retail outlet to the overbridge.

"I've seen two trucks tip over. It's like a bomb going off. It's really scary. When are they going to do something? When someone dies?"

Dickinson supports suggestions from people she has spoken to that WDC put in place a low crossing barrier on the approaches to the overbridge.

Tim Green, owner of Whangārei Menswear and Suit Hire, has heard a number of loud bangs over the years and said crashes on the overbridge was quite dangerous with the number of people out and about.

He has helped a lot of people driving tall vehicles such as buses and campervans that decided against crossing the overbridge to turn around and find alternative routes.

"It's hard for drivers to look at warning signs when they are concentrating on driving but then there are a lot of drivers who don't know the height of their trucks."

The latest crash on the low overbridge on Rust Ave involved a Waste Management rubbish truck with a hoist. Photo/Tania Whyte
The latest crash on the low overbridge on Rust Ave involved a Waste Management rubbish truck with a hoist. Photo/Tania Whyte

The council will send a letter to all of the organisations governing drivers of tall vehicles, reminding them of the hazard.

Roading manager Jeff Devine said the council has previously investigated the installation of a "low crossing barrier" on the approaches to the bridge.

"We consulted with trucking industry groups but were advised, that as many trucks have separate cabs to the body of their trucks, hitting a low crossing barrier with the body of the truck may not be heard or felt by the driver in the cab."

Flashing traffic lights and illuminated warning signs were installed instead, he said.

Devine said trucks having accidents on Rust Ave were not over-height vehicles but were generally standard legal height vehicles of less than 4.3m.

However, with the height restriction of 3.44m posted on the numerous warning signs on the approaches to the Rust Ave bridge, he said the council has effectively already banned vehicles exceeding this height from using the road.

"A driver commits an offence if they do not comply with the posted restrictions and a number of drivers who have had accidents previously have been prosecuted accordingly," Devine said.

This PBT truck was among the eight over the last decade that crashed into the Rust Ave overbridge. Photo/John Stone
This PBT truck was among the eight over the last decade that crashed into the Rust Ave overbridge. Photo/John Stone

Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett said it was up to truck companies to train drivers and make them aware of the specific route they were travelling, along with potential hazards.