HVIA Chief Executive Brett Wright
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will consider mechanisms proposed by Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) to ensure a safer, higher productivity fleet and to protect the ongoing viability of the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme.
The HVIA submitted a proposal to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to put targeted measures in place to address serious shortcomings in the scheme’s safety requirements.
The HVIA submission highlighted that the ability to use trucks and trailers of any age with only load-sensing brake technology is a concern in any PBS application, but particularly heavy truck and dog combinations. Over the last four years there has been a surge in PBS truck and dog combinations with many utilised for metropolitan infrastructure projects.
Responding to HVIA’s submission, Geoff Casey, the NHVR’s Executive Director, Productivity and Safety, pointed to the current Austroads PBS Standard – Directional Stability Under Braking project, due to report back in mid-2017. The review is expected to make a series of recommendations about high productivity PBS approved vehicles.
“The NHVR is of the opinion that it would be beneficial to consider the outcomes of the Austroads research before any potential changes in the PBS Vehicle Assessment Rules are considered,” Mr Casey said.
The problems identified by HVIA show the minimum PBS requirements to have fallen behind the Australian Design Rules required for new trucks supplied in the last two years (which require ABS) and only just match them for any trailer combination (which require ABS or load sensing).
HVIA Chief Executive, Brett Wright said it is critical that PBS vehicles set a high minimum level of dynamic safety performance.
“It makes no sense to wait, given that the PBS scheme’s intent is to encourage and facilitate innovative design and engineering but with safety as its cornerstone. PBS vehicles are the flagships of the heavy vehicle fleet. In fact, the scheme is touted as an international benchmark.
“The ten-year-old scheme has been a slow burn until the last few years when its advantages have become apparent to transport operators seeking higher productivity combinations for specialist tasks.
“Now many more operators are enjoying the scheme’s benefits, however without the rigour that the scheme has promised other road users.”
“Of course, it is in everyone’s best interests that the PBS scheme continues to grow. It allows the transport industry to move freight far more efficiently.”
“The payback however, has to be adhering to benchmark safety requirements. HVIA has identified that the PBS scheme is at risk given the age loophole and low, outdated braking standards required for approval. “Should at any point, we witness a serious accident involving one of the poorer performing PBS vehicles there is a high risk that the scheme could be negatively impacted.”
Wright cited the regulatory response to the fatal tanker crashes in 2013 and 2014 which sparked a complete review of the roadworthiness system and Chain of Responsibility Law.
“We don’t want to see another tragic accident nor the reactive, rather than proactive policy responses” Wright added. In releasing their Q1 2016-17 quarterly snapshot, NHVR Chief Executive Sal Petroccitto said the benefits of PBS scheme is “safer technology, such as braking systems, that also delivers greater productivity outcomes.”
Meanwhile the National Transport Commission is undertaking two relevant policy studies in parallel, both currently in the midst of industry consultation. The first is the PBS Marketplace Survey, set-up to assess the effectiveness of the PBS scheme to date and identify scope for improvements. The second investigates allowing increased vehicle volume where mass is not the constraint. The discussion paper looks at 6 options for increasing the allowable volume of vehicles including 5 which look at longer vehicles and one which looks at increasing height.
“While the NTC, the Federal Government and states are all genuinely interested parties in ensuring that good policy enables the growth of a safe and productive fleet,” Mr Wright said, “there is an inevitable delay in the implementation of any response to their work.
“Unfortunately the bureaucratic chain can be cumbersome in delivering outcomes, no matter how good the case is for change.
“The NHVR, however, has the power to implement simple, tangible measures that will ensure that the intent of the law is delivered in the most practical way.
“A robust PBS scheme encourages and improves productivity, but more than anything, delivers a safer transport environment for the community, through proactive risk management,” MrWright said.