Greetings from the almost wintery south,
The weather here has been extraordinarily mild over autumn (fall for the North Americans). The daytime highs in May have typically been 21-22 degrees C which is 3-4 degrees above the historical average. Today is officially the start of winter and it is noticeably cooler with a high of 13.
The planning for HVTT14 is progressing well. We have received a good number of papers across a wide range of topics and I am expecting a lively and interesting conference. The conference web-site (www.hvttconference.com ) has recently been updated with details on paper submissions and on accommodation, travel and sightseeing options in Rotorua. We are currently finalising the budget (and hence the conference fee) and we should have the conference registration page up and running in a few weeks.
Road safety as always is still significant issue in New Zealand. We have recently had a spate of log truck crashes (seven in seven weeks in a very localised area about 150km north of Auckland) which is causing public concern. At least three of these crashes were on the same road. Fortunately none them have resulted in a fatality or a serious injury.
The forest harvesting area in this region is relatively remote and so we have large trucks operating on relatively poor quality roads but it is also clear that in some, if not most, of the crashes driver error was a significant contributor. Issues being raised are long driving hours, poor pay, inexperienced drivers and the general driver shortage. It is not a simple problem to solve. The solutions being proposed elsewhere for vehicles on major highways such as longer and heavier vehicles and/or autonomous vehicles are a long way off for this type of application. Similarly the option to use rail more extensively, which is often suggested, has limited scope for use in forest harvesting where a forestry block is typically cleared, replanted and then left for another 25-30 years before the next harvesting cycle. I don’t have a magic bullet solution for the problem. Upgrading the critical parts of the road network and upskilling drivers should make a difference but a fundamental system change would be much harder to achieve.
I wish you all well for the coming winter (summer for most of you) and I look forward to seeing many of you in November in Rotorua.
John de Pont