Northern Territory supports NTC's PBS reforms

Northern Territory supports PBS reform, but is concerned the scheme will not gain support in regional Australia

By Brad Gardner | May 18, 2010

The Northern Territory has backed extensive changes to performance based standards (PBS), but is concerned the scheme will not be widely adopted in remote Australia.

Department of Lands and Planning Executive Director Marj Morrissey says the preferred option advocated by the NTC for a national approvals process "should be pursued".

Trucking operators currently have to deal with state and local governments to negotiate access for PBS-approved vehicles, which has caused delays and frustration because of the number of parties involved in the process.

Under the NTC’s proposal, operators will go to the national regulator—to be set up in 2011 and fully functioning by 2013— for PBS approval and the regulator will then be responsible for dealing with the different parties.

But Morrissey has also recommended a review of PBS requirements on access levels, which has been deferred until the NTC’s current proposal is settled.

There are four levels under PBS, which vary based on the length of the vehicle. A truck’s access is determined by the level it falls under, with level four dealing with the longest vehicles.

Morrissey says innovative road trains operate under a permit system in the Territory similar to PBS because they must meet set guidelines to gain road access.

"However, none of these combinations or any standard road train combinations to date have been found to meet all PBS level four requirements," Morrissey says.

"As such, it is doubtful that PBS will have any great take up in remote Australia until such time as the requirements for level four vehicles are reviewed."

Morrissey says the Territory’s scheme has approved 69 innovative vehicle combinations, which have a mixture of road-train trailers and B-double components.

The Territory has also backed the NTC’s recommendation for manufacturers to market PBS-compliant vehicles and to conduct self-certifications.

"Under the current system, costs are borne almost exclusively by fleet operators," the NTC’s proposal says.

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

"We would also be supportive of the proposal to include both self certification and modular assessment in the business and assessment rules," Morrissey says.

Operators will also be given the power to mix and match combinations under the NTC’s changes.

"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 NTC says.

In its proposal, the NTC says reform will cut compliance costs from $56,000 for an operator with about 12 vehicles to $16,000.

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