The transport and movement of heavy vehicles, machinery and loads on public roads is a highly regulated process. There are strict legal responsibilities for all parties involved in the transport logistics supply chain, including cotton growers.

As part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in recognition of significantly reduced Easter traffic numbers this season, both the NSW and Queensland governments will not be implementing any of the normal restrictions on the movement of Oversized/Over-mass transport over the Easter period.

In summary, growers and contractors are able to move machinery in the same manner, and under the same rules, as for the rest of the year. Further information can be found on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator website.

From February 10th 2014, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) became the national transport regulator for all vehicles over 4.5 tonne Gross Vehicle Mass. The NHVR is a ‘one-stop shop’ for all transport-related business.

However, there is still some regulatory overlap with the states, and state-based regulator websites remain an important source of information.

Cotton Australia works to maintain proactive and direct engagement with relevant road transport authorities. Our efforts aim to reduce the compliance burden on growers through the preparation of plain English best practice transport guidelines. Additionally, Cotton Australia advocates for reforms to outdated regulations that have not kept pace with technological and other advances in the Australian cotton growing industry.

Cotton Australia has successfully negotiated on behalf of the industry various exemptions (concessions) that allow certain vehicle and trailer combination types and over-dimension loads or machinery to be operated and transported on roads outside the over-arching rules.

Below is information covering the movement of cotton equipment and cotton, responsibilities under the transport Chain of Responsibility (COR), Easter Movement Restriction Exemptions, and Load Restraint Guides.

Information for growers and transport and machinery operators

The information below primarily covers those states and territories where the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator applies.

General Information for Western Australia and the Northern Territory

Western Australia

Northern Territory

Movement of agricultural machinery on public roads

Agricultural machinery is either a self-propelled item of agricultural equipment such as a tractor, header, cotton picker or sprayer, or a combination of a tractor and other agricultural implements.

From mid-2019 the movement of agricultural equipment on public roads was governed by the National Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle and Combination Mass and Dimension Exemption Notice. This notice covers the movement of agricultural vehicles and combinations in all states and territories with the exception of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Farmers, their managers and their employees should become very familiar with:

It should be noted that while it is a National Notice, some requirements and dimensions differ from state to state, as well as specific conditions put in place by other road managers such as local governments. Operators should ensure that they check these specific conditions by either consulting the interactive map or Appendix 5.

Movement of agricultural machinery outside what is covered by the National Notice is still possible, but it does require the issuing of a specific permit. Permits can be applied through the NHVR.

Movement of over-dimensional loads on load-carrying vehicles

Once a piece of agricultural machinery or produce is loaded onto a truck or similar load-carrying vehicle, it is largely subject to the same over-dimensional rules that apply to all transport operators.

Un-ginned cotton/modules

Trailer Extensions

In both NSW and Queensland, there are provisions to allow trailer extensions when used in a road train configuration, allowing most trailers to legally carry six full-sized round modules.

Operators should note that all extensions must be certified by an Approved Vehicle Examiner.

Frame type Load Restraint Systems (Collier & Miller)

In NSW and Queensland, it is possible to move round modules with a maximum height of 4.6 metres (when using a frame-style load restraint system). The rules are slightly different in both states. In NSW, transporters can go to 4.6m “as of right” under the New South Wales and Queensland Class 3 Heavy Vehicle 4.6m High Loaded Semitrailer Dimension Exemption (Notice) 2014 (No. 1); while in Queensland, a specific permit must be applied for.

An information sheet can be found here.


Operators in NSW and Queensland using chainbed loaders can avail themselves of certain dimension exemptions by utilising the following notices:

Ginned cotton

In NSW, there is a specific permit allowing the over-dimensional loading of ginned cotton bales.

Load restraint

All transport operators are legally required to restrain their loads in accordance with the Load Restraint Guide 2018 which was prepared by the National Transport Commission. In summary, the guide has performance standards that need to be met.

The NHVR has detailed information on load restraint, which can be found here.

To assist cotton industry operators, Cotton Australia and other industry participants have engaged load engineers to prepare certified load restraint guides for commonly used load configurations.

If an operator chooses to use one of these guides and relies on it as evidence that a load has been secured in accordance with the law, then the operator must ensure that every requirement set out in the guide is followed exactly.

Load Restraint Guides – Un-ginned cotton

Load Restraint Guide – Ginned cotton

Chain of Responsibility – who is responsible?

Under the Chain of Responsibility (COR) provisions within the regulations, each party involved in the loading, restraint and transport of cotton modules from farms to a cotton gin shares responsibility for transporting the modules in a safe and compliant manner. The individual responsibility is greater for those matters more directly under your control. Growers must ensure that all cotton modules are constructed in line with industry best practices, including:

  • Harvested cotton adequately compacted into rectangle or round modules so as to avoid loose modules that may be inclined to break during loading, transport or unloading at the gin site;
  • Modules not so heavy that they may create an over-weight load for trucks;
  • Modules properly covered in tarpaulins or wrapped;
  • Modules constructed and/or presented on even pads to facilitate loading, including correct alignment onto trailer decks for transport; and
  • Checking all modules are adequately restrained on trailers prior to leaving the farm (including monitoring the practices of your transport contractor).

In addition, Chain of Responsibility laws were updated in October 2018 requiring all members of the chain to have greater regard for issues around fatigue management and vehicle maintenance, in addition to load restraint.

Additional information around COR can be found:

Conditional registration

For many years, farmers have been able to avail themselves of Conditional Registration for a wide range of agricultural vehicles, allowing them to be driven legally on roads. However, the registration comes with a range of conditions that vary greatly depending on the vehicle, and in some state locations.

Cotton farmers should take the time to review the conditions that apply to their vehicles. In NSW, growers need to carry with the vehicle at all times a copy of the conditions that apply to that vehicle. The conditions will appear on the Certificate of Approved Operations (which is issued when the vehicle is Conditionally Registered for the first time). In Queensland, the conditions will be shown on the Certificate of Registration.

Easter movement of cotton picking equipment

As Easter public holidays often coincide with cotton picking, Cotton Australia has negotiated some exemptions to the normal restrictions that apply to the movement of over-dimensional equipment across the Easter public holiday period.

The relevant exemptions/details can be found here -