Regulators cop hammering over PBS rollout


PBS process is breaking down, and bureaucrats and a complex approval scheme are being blamed

By Brad Gardner | March 17, 2010

Disinterested bureaucrats and a complex implementation process are being blamed for bogging down the performance based standards (PBS) scheme.

The marketing manager of manufacturer Haulmark Trailers, Mark Johnston, has cited a number of instances where the company’s efforts to get trailers approved had been derailed.

In one case, it took bureaucrats three weeks to find a paper drawing of a route Haulmark had asked to be assessed.

In another instance, the company was told there was no hurry to get PBS off the ground because other productivity initiatives such as the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) had taken years to get going.

"The only way is up because we are in a crap position at the moment," Johnston says of the current process.

"For me the biggest issue is the implementation of it."

He says there is a vehicle that can cut truck movements by 50 percent, but regulators originally wanted to curfew it even though it needed to operate during the day.

Johnston says it took weeks of convincing decision makers that a curfew was not the answer.

Fonterra’s national milk transport manager, Tony Miller, says the company first heard of PBS in October 2007 and is hoping to get its custom vehicle on the road for the first time this month.

The 26 metre vehicle has dual tankers capable of being separated.

The dairy processor has spent almost three years gaining council approvals, beginning a formal assessment process, gaining state government approvals, building and assessing the vehicle and then getting approval from the National Transport Commission (NTC).

Miller has questioned why the vehicle cannot travel on certain routes because it is same length as a B-double but significantly safer because it brakes faster and does not need to swing wide to turn corners.

It also has more axles to better distribute weight and reduce the vehicle’s impact on the road network.

"The vehicle outperforms a 26 metre B-double with safety and infrastructure impact, yet it is highly restricted as to the roads it is allowed on," he says.

"It doesn’t make sense."

As the NTC prepares to release a review calling for changes to the PBS process, Johnston says the industry needs to direct energy into educating decision makers and the public about PBS.

He says the scheme is vital for urban freight, which is hampered by traffic congestion.

Steve Warrell from the Roads and Traffic Authority’s (RTA) Wagga Wagga branch has backed changes to the current system.

"The applications for PBS does need streamlining," he says.

Designed as a national program, PBS focuses on how well a vehicle performs rather than making decisions based on its size.

Higher productivity vehicles such as 30-metre super B-doubles are allowed on selected routes because they meet a set of stringent safety, loading and infrastructure standards.

Because of this, the NTC’s media manager, Paul Sullivan, says PBS should be the industry’s "best weapon" in allaying community concerns about larger trucks.

"This far superior vehicle has to go through all this red tape," he says.

Despite this, Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO Philip Lovel says the industry is struggling to counter media reports of the vehicles as monster trucks.

The NTC review will recommend a nationally consistent PBS approval process to cut red tape and give operators a one-stop-shop, rather than the current process.


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