PBS needs shake-up: NTC

NTC calls for sweeping changes to PBS scheme to fix deficiencies crippling its effectiveness

PBS needs shake-up: NTC
PBS needs shake-up: NTC
By Brad Gardner | March 23, 2010

Government and industry are being asked to back a systematic overhaul of performance based standards (PBS) to resolve deficiencies crippling the scheme’s effectiveness.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released its anticipated regulatory impact statement on PBS for consultation that calls for a national assessment process instead of the existing state-based permits system for access.

Warning of a declining interest from operators in the scheme, the NTC proposes trucking companies no longer suffer the burden of dealing with individual councils and agencies to gain road access.

One of the report’s authors, George Konstandakos, says trucking companies will go to the national regulator—to be set up in 2011and fully functioning by 2013— for PBS approval and the regulator will then be responsible for dealing with the different parties.

As well as slashing the administrative and financial burden on the industry, the change is expected to improve the scheme’s consistency and certainty of access.

Konstandakos says the regulator will be able to educate bureaucrats on the importance of PBS, overcoming a significant roadblock.

"A lot of councils struggle to work out how the scheme works," he says, adding this has resulted in applications being denied.

If accepted, the NTC’s report claims the proposal will cut compliance costs from $56,000 for an operator with about 12 vehicles to $16,000.

The NTC’s report highlights serious concerns over the current running of PBS, claiming operators which have been involved in the scheme have indicated they will not use it again.

"The key deficiency of the current PBS system is in the granting of road access to approved vehicles," the NTC’s report says.

Despite a specific panel being set up to approve PBS applications, the statement says 17 percent of the 75 vehicles approved have been slapped with extra operating conditions by individual jurisdictions.

Konstandakos says there are instances where PBS-approved vehicles have been forced to install the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) to monitor the truck via GPS, while others have needed to install onboard mass management equipment. The regulatory impact statement advocates an end to extra restrictions, with Konstandakos saying the NTC wants to develop nationally-agreed access conditions.

The NTC is also proposing to give operators the power to mix and match combinations.

"The current system can only approve a single vehicle which cannot be broken down or have modules such as compatible prime movers swapped, for example when a prime mover is out of service or unavailable for any reason," the impact statement reads.

Under the proposal, manufacturers will be allowed to market PBS-compliant vehicles and to conduct self-certifications.

This, the NTC’s report claims, will lead to a significant reduction in operator costs.

"Under the current system, costs are borne almost exclusively by fleet operators," it says.

The manufacturer will bear the costs, which the NTC says may be amortised if there is a full production run.

The benefits go beyond the industry.

The NTC estimates the changes will deliver greater take-up of PBS, in turn saving 3.75 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and direct financial savings of $5.71 billion.

While the national regulator may not have the capacity to take on PBS straight away, Konstandakos says changes to vehicle combination restrictions and manufacturing can begin almost immediately.

"If we get these changes through, PBS will be a more successful scheme," he says.

Konstandakos is adamant operators need to make their voices heard.

"We really need industry to get behind this reform," he says.

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