RTA blasts NTC over PBS proposal

RTA criticises draft proposal to reform PBS scheme, instead advocating its own reform model

By Brad Gardner | June 15, 2010

The Roads and Traffic Authority has criticised the National Transport Commission’s proposal to reform performance based standards and has advocated an alternative reform model focused on funding constraints.

In her response to the PBS draft regulatory impact statement, RTA Acting Chief Executive Ann King accused the NTC of falsely assuming normal funding processes will be enough to upgrade routes to support heavier vehicles.

King claims state government-controlled roads in NSW will need a $1.5 billion cash injection to upgrade routes to PBS suitability, while more money will be needed for local roads.

She says a lack of funding has prompted local governments to deny access to higher productivity vehicles, and the NTC needs to consider where the money will come from to support PBS.

"Without the necessary funding to address their issues it is unlikely that suitable performance based standards networks will be opened up as is assumed [by the NTC]," King writes.

King wants a new option in the final draft statement that uses a hypothecated funding model and sets out a process for prioritising PBS routes across state and local government networks

The RTA is also pushing for upgrades based on priority and for infrastructure works and timelines for bringing routes up to PBS standard to be identified and estimated.

King also criticised the NTC for claiming PBS trucks cause no more damage than other heavy vehicles.

"This is not correct as the performance based standards review panel has approved 57 tonne seven axle truck and trailer combinations whose assessed pavement impact exceeds the Austroads agreed current level of heavy vehicle wear," she says.

"Given that these vehicles currently comprise around 70 percent of the vehicles approved under the performance based standards, then the level of pavement damage associated with the performance based standards fleet exceeds that of other heavy vehicles."

King raises particular concerns about the state of the bridge network in NSW, saying heavier vehicles create significant problems for bridges constructed before 1976.

"The NSW road network is characterised by a high proportion of old bridges originally designed for lower traffic loads than the current design standards. The cumulative impact can lead to higher maintenance costs and potentially a reduction in the life of the structure," King writes.

The NTC wants responsibility for PBS given to the national trucking regulator, which will be running by 2013.

According to the NTC, there is a decline in interest in PBS because operators need to deal with state and local governments and are not guaranteed of access despite meeting strict conditions.

Under the NTC’s proposal, operators will go to the regulator which will be responsible for dealing with individual governments.

The NTC also wants the industry to be given 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 also be allowed to market PBS-compliant vehicles and to conduct self certifications.

However, King has raised concerns over the proposal, claiming self certification "carries a number of risks" which the NTC fails to address in its impact statement.

While not mentioning the risks, King says self certification may undermine PBS by reducing its credibility in offering more productive and safer vehicles.

Instead, King recommends certain models to be given prescriptive status so they do not need to go through the PBS application process.

King also rejects the NTC’s call to allow operators to swap compatible prime movers.

"By allowing hauling units to be assessed independent of trailer use it would not seem possible to properly address each of the performance based standards," she says.

"For example mixing different braking technologies between hauling units and trailer sets in a combination vehicle may result in acceptable emergency braking performance and poor onset braking balance, or vice versa. This could result in poor braking performance."
King says the final draft statement needs to address how such a risk will be controlled.

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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