Transport News

ALRTA calls for middle ground on PBS review

In its weekly newsletter, the ALRTA says it wants to see the PBS scheme reform assume a sensible approach.

In a response to a discussion paper from the National Heavy Vehicle Operator (NHVR) about options to reform the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme, the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) has called for a level-headed approach.

The association says the discussion paper presents three options ranging from ‘do nothing’ to ‘make everything PBS’.  As is often the case, the middle reform option is the most sensible approach.  

The ALRTA says the option will involve developing and implementing a Standards Framework, an Access and Transition Framework and an Assurance Framework. 

Under current arrangements, the ALRTA argues that entry into the PBS scheme is far too costly and uncertain for most operators. Without network access and vehicle accreditation guarantees (that can be transferred on the sale of PBS vehicles), investing in engineering designs and vehicle production is a risky proposition.

The ALRTA recognises that the PBS scheme is growing steadily, but it has failed to meet its original intended purpose of progressing commonly approved vehicle designs out of the PBS environment into a less regulated environment.
While supportive of ‘Option 2’, the ALRTA has raised concerns that some jurisdictions (especially Victoria) are relying too heavily on PBS as the only pathway for vehicle innovation and network access.

The ALRTA asserts that basic vehicle modifications to higher productivity vehicles should fall well below the PBS approval threshold (which should only be required for bespoke designs) as they are manifestly equivalent to vehicle combinations that are already approved.

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The association argues this is particularly frustrating when one jurisdiction requires particular vehicle combinations to be PBS assessed and approved when these very same vehicle combinations already have network access outside of PBS in other jurisdictions.

Secondly, the ALRTA says it is concerned that PBS may undermine approved productivity schemes already established under notice and eventually result in a complicated landscape of vehicles operating under different specifications.

A prime example of this potential problem is the current standardisation of trailer dimensions under state livestock loading schemes. This standardisation has been helpful for industry by allowing a sectoral productivity increase while simultaneously establishing a level playing field.

Standardised equipment enjoys predictable road access and can be easily traded among operators. If jurisdictions were to insist on a PBS accreditation as a condition for accessing productivity improvements it may result in a plethora of new and unique trailers, making it difficult for some operators to compete, difficult to maintain sale value for some trailer types and difficult for roadside authorities to assess compliance with any loading scheme that may or may not apply.

The ALRTA says a better alternative would be for the NHVR to work with industry to develop options for standard productivity innovations that would continue to be allowed under such schemes.

It says the primary concern is the potential for state authorities to take differing approaches using PBS as the basis for providing network access or eligibility for productivity schemes.

For this reason, ALRTA has strongly encouraged NHVR to apply maximum pressure on all participating jurisdictions to take a uniform approach to any requirement for vehicles to be PBS accredited to gain network access or participate in productivity schemes. In cases where vehicle combinations have network or scheme access without PBS, the association says this should apply across all jurisdictions. 

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