More money needed to support PBS scheme, SA says

South Australia says more money is needed for PBS, highlighting concerns with proposed changes to the scheme

By Brad Gardner | June 16, 2010

A lack of funding will stall the take-up of performance based standards, according to South Australia, which has raised concerns with proposed reforms to the scheme.

The Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (DTEI) has refuted the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) claim that adopting a national rather than state-based PBS assessment system will lead to greater access for trucking operators.

The NTC wants operators to go to the national heavy vehicle regulator—to be set up in 2011 and fully functioning by 2013— with their PBS applications. The regulator will be responsible for dealing with local governments and road departments.

"It is agreed that, to provide greater access and make PBS more attractive to industry, a substantial increase in road improvement expenditure over and above that currently provided, will be required," DTEI Chief Executive Jim Hallion says.

"Such investment is not likely to occur in South Australia in the current financial climate. It is anticipated that network improvements will only increase slowly over time dependent on industry and freight demand."

Hallion also rejected the assumption handing control of PBS over to the national regulator will lead to greater benefits for operators because PBS vehicles are given the same certainty of access as B-doubles and road trains in South Australia.

"This will not change with the introduction of the national heavy vehicle regulator (NHVR)," he writes in his reply to the impact statement.

"I understand the need for consistent vehicle operating conditions…but reserve the right to set access conditions to manage local, amenity and environmental issues in an effort to secure the best available access for the prevailing freight task with the existing network standard at the time."

According to the NTC, operators are losing interest in the scheme because they need to deal with individual councils and government agencies to gain access.

It claims giving the regulator the responsibility will slash the administrative and financial burden on the industry and improve the scheme’s consistency and certainty of access.

But Hallion says it is unlikely South Australia and other jurisdictions will be able to implement national PBS regulations before the heavy vehicle regulator is introduced.

"It would therefore be more appropriate for the model regulations to be considered and drafted as part of the national model heavy vehicle law for application and operational consistency," he says.

Claiming the draft statement needs to be reviewed before the NTC seeks endorsement from the nation’s transport ministers, Hallion is concerned about provisions in the PBS model law.

He says requirements such as 20-day turnaround times for PBS applications and a formal appeals process to review PBS and access conditions will increase administrative costs and compromise the ability of road departments to work with councils on access issues.

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.

According to the NTC, its proposed reform 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.

Compliance costs for an operator with about 12 vehicles will fall from $56,000 to $16,000, the NTC claims.

Related stories:
NT supports PBS reforms
PBS needs shake-up: NTC
ATA backs PBS changes
Feds will only support national scheme: Mrdak

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