'Father of the B-double' bags PBS system

By: Steve Skinner

Industry legend Bob Pearson says Performance Based Standards regime disadvantages small operators

'Father of the B-double' bags PBS system
Pearson favours modular solutions such as B-doubles and B-triples

Transport consultant Bob Pearson, widely regarded as the "Father of the B-double" in Australia, has criticised Performance Based Standards (PBS) on equity and safety grounds.

PBS is where operators can seek special approval for unique tailor-made trailer solutions, often involving extra weight. The scheme has been administered for the past year by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

Pearson believes that contrary to national competition policy, small operators are "totally disadvantaged" by the scheme.

"I tend to think that PBS in many ways is anti-competitive, and that’s one of the things I’m concerned about," he says.

"Small operators don’t have access to PBS at the moment, it’s just too costly.

"With PBS you have got to design your particular vehicle, it will cost you a minimum of ten grand to get the thing assessed, you have got to go through the system of getting it approved by the national PBS body, and then you’ve got no guarantee you are going to get it on the road."

Pearson, a bridge engineer by trade who began researching B-doubles in 1979, has held senior technical and management positions in government agencies including VicRoads and the National Road Transport Commission.

He was chairman of the Higher Mass Limits (HML) Review when in the 1990s it approved an increase in semi-trailer GCM to 45.5 tonnes, subject to certain requirements such as road friendly suspensions.

Pearson favours modular solutions such as B-doubles and B-triples which in theory anybody can buy and operate, and which can be broken up into standard vehicles.

He says he has calculated that the claimed productivity benefits of PBS over the next 10 years could be achieved if an extra half a tonne is allowed on every standard tri-axle.

"In my view the benefits of the PBS are absolutely minimal at this stage," he says.

"The NHVR are working very hard towards solving some of those issues, but I’m not a supporter at all of the current arrangements."

Pearson also expressed some concern about safety under the current PBS system, saying that a "huge percentage" of approvals in Victoria have been of truck and single trailer combinations above 50 tonnes GCM.

"Nobody can convince me that a truck and trailer is a safer vehicle than a B-double," he says.

Pearson says he supports future changes to the PBS flagged by the NHVR on its website.

They are a one-stop-shop for PBS vehicle and route access approvals; streamlined access to PBS networks; modular assessment; and manufacturers’ self-certification.

Read the full interview in the February edition of ATN

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