Queensland counts cost of PBS

Queensland spends $280,000 and 10 months assessing a 154km route for PBS suitability

By Brad Gardner | June 17, 2010

A pilot route for performance based standards cost the Queensland Government almost $300,000 and one year of work.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads Director General David Stewart has revealed the cost of conducting an assessment of a 154km route to determine its ability to carry 30 metre trucks.

Stewart says the pilot route ran from the Port of Brisbane to Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, and took 10 months for consultancy firm ARRB and government officers to compile road information and conduct desktop assessments.

"This project is a good case study on the realities for jurisdictions undertaking large scale route assessments and highlights the effort required to assess a route for PBS vehicles on dimensional aspects only," Stewart says.

Bridge assessments alone cost $140,000, making up half of the $280,000 price tag.

"It should also be noted that the bridge assessments were conducted on a vehicle with specific axle spacings and may not be suitable for other vehicles that have different axle spacings," Stewart says.

He says the project is close to being finalised, but subsequent vehicles will be subjected to individual bridge assessments when they apply for route access.

Stewart made the comments in a written response to a National Transport Commission proposal to reform PBS, and warned against making the industry carry the cost burden on assessments.

"Given the costs involved for route assessments, it is likely a user-pays approach to route assessments may further limit PBS take-up by the transport industry, especially when compared to using conventional regulation based vehicles for the same freight task," he says.

The NTC wants the national heavy vehicle regulator (NHVR) – to be running by 2013 – to take over the PBS application process.

While saying Queensland supports the NTC’s proposal, Stewart raised concerns about implementing reform to meet the timeline of the establishment of the regulator.

"NTC should ensure that all the issues with PBS are resolved across all jurisdictions to make certain the scheme is robust enough for the NHVR to administer," he says.

Stewart also wants the NTC to look at the adequacy of existing PBS infrastructure standards. He says larger vehicles impact on the road network and existing PBS bridge formulas are not appropriate for certain axle configurations under the scheme.

"Asset design and condition vary considerably within and across jurisdictions and the lowest capacity asset will dictate the maximum load effect that can be sustained on a given route," he says.

"This will result in different road link capacities and hence the complexities of assessment."

Trucking operators currently need to deal with state road agencies and local governments to negotiate access conditions.

Under the NTC’s proposal operators will go to the regulator, which will then be responsible for dealing with the different parties.

According to the NTC, this will reduce the administrative burden on the trucking industry and lead to greater certainty of access.

It claims sections of the industry are fed up with the current system because they are being denied access or being forced to meet onerous restrictions.

Stewart says Queensland has progressed initiatives in support of PBS, such as being the first jurisdiction classify and publish a section of its network for PBS vehicles.

The work with ARRB, he says, is designed to classify more of the network for another class of PBS vehicles.

He says the Department of Transport and Main Roads has received applications requesting access in the Brisbane and Townsville port precincts and consultation is underway with Brisbane and Townsville councils to conduct route assessments.

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