AUS-SPEC: Making roads safer for rural communities

Emma Green from NATSPEC provides an overview of AUS-SPEC’s new Rural Roads specification package, which is bringing technical expertise to rural and regional councils Australia-wide.

Over half of all road accidents in Australia occur on rural and regional roads. Safety is paramount on all roads. For road authorities, road management is an important responsibility – and a serious challenge.

Roads are a local government’s most significant asset. Rural and regional local councils need a reliable, efficient resource to help them design, construct, maintain and operate their roads to a high standard, in a sustainable manner.

Sealed and unsealed local roads are dynamic systems affected by traffic, environment, road profile and material characteristics. Material and techniques for the placement of material are the only elements that can be controlled and improved.

AUS-SPEC’s new Rural Roads package brings technical expertise to rural and regional councils nationwide, supporting them in the management of their largest asset.

AUS-SPEC is a joint venture between NATSPEC and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia to provide the national local government specification system. It is an essential tool for resource-poor rural councils.

The Rural Roads package is intended for staff members and contractors in engineering services, environmental services, asset management and maintenance management.

Designing road networks requires in-depth knowledge  of geometric road design, pavement design, the expected traffic volume, available material resources and impact of environmental factors.

AUS-SPEC Rural Roads works across all these areas, providing the insight needed to improve roads’ safety and structural integrity.

The AUS-SPEC Rural Roads specification includes editable worksection templates, documentation and guidelines for planning, design, tendering, contracting, preliminaries, construction, operation and maintenance.

AUS-SPEC is especially useful for improving the sustainability of road assets as it embeds these requirements in worksections and reference documents, including the new design reference and checklists and construction reference and schedules, as well as TECHguides, TECHnotes and TECHreports.

Unsealed road performance is more easily affected by materials and environmental factors, and AUS-SPEC Rural Roads addresses this with four new specifications for geometric road design and pavement design for sealed and unsealed roads.

TECHreport TR08 Management of council gravel pits in country areas – a case study – explains how blending gravels from marginal gravel pits can produce unsealed roads without any defects.

The case study of Lachlan Shire Council in this TECHreport gives a practical example of how to improve the management of council gravel pits in country areas.

Projects in Cassowary Coast Regional Council in Queensland, where road maintenance intervention times were extended from three months to three years, and the Shire of Albany in WA have already been successful.

In the Shire of Albany, improved gravel blending for unsealed roads reduced potholes and water penetration to zero, reduced maintenance grading from every week to twice a year and extended resheeting intervention times from every three to five years to every 10 to 15 years. This creates a significant whole-of-life cost saving.

AUS-SPEC construction worksections provide better quality control, environmental management and integrated management. New worksections include rural concrete bases and the wearing courses, bases and subbases of unsealed roads.

Existing worksections, including stabilisation, flexible pavements and sprayed seals, have been updated for rural councils. Councils that engage contractors will find these particularly helpful.

The new construction TECHnote GEN026 Otta seal – a different approach to road sealing – supports these new specifications, outlining the use of Otta seal for low traffic volume unsealed gravel roads.

The Rural Roads package’s Design reference and checklists and Construction reference and schedules are a major advantage.

The design checklists provide a record of design processes and design requirements. The customisable checklists can include project-specific criteria, flexibility that is also offered by the AUS-SPEC construction schedules.

These include material selection schedules, summaries of hold points and witness points, maximum lot sizes and test frequencies. The reference documents provide essential quality requirements for regional and rural councils.

AUS-SPEC Rural Roads incorporates scientific technology to extend intervention times and enable road operation at optimal maintenance investment.

The new TECHnote GEN027 maintenance of unsealed roads assists local road authorities in maintaining low volume unsealed gravel roads. AUS-SPEC maintenance worksections, such as 1602 Maintenance schedules – road reserve, help councils record asset inspections, program and prioritise works and prepare monthly ‘works-as-executed’ reports.

These improve asset inventory and maintenance history and provide necessary records for defence against litigation. The comprehensive specifications, technical documents, checklists, references and schedules assist councils that lack in-house engineering expertise.

To simplify the documentation process, subscribers have access to SPECbuilder, NATSPEC’s online specification compiler. AUS-SPEC provides an annual update service in response to changes to regulations, standards, industry practices and the evolving needs of subscribers.

Serving as a common language, AUS-SPEC benefits contractors and local government engineers. It promotes best practice and creates a national framework for managing local government infrastructure and assets. This makes collaboration and contracting far easier.

Protecting roads means protecting livelihoods and lives. With the Rural Roads package, councils can ensure that they are proactively managing their road assets and providing safe infrastructure to their communities.

AUS-SPEC should be used as an essential technical resource for delivering sustainable local government projects of exceptional quality.

AUS-SPEC is developed by industry, for industry. It is managed by NATSPEC, a not-for-profit, Government- and industry-owned organisation.

NATSPEC maintains the National Building Specification for Australia and has been a valued part of the construction industry for over 40 years.

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