Chief Scientist highlights PBS scheme success

Changes to national regulation and the introduction of the PBS scheme are examples for all industries to follow, Finkel says

Chief Scientist highlights PBS scheme success
Alan Finkel speaking at the conference. Image courtesy of TEQSA.


Australia’s chief scientist has lauded the trucking industry’s attitude to regulation as a trendsetter in a speech at the Tertiary Education and Standards Agency’s (TEQSA) inaugural Sharing Excellence: Assuring Quality conference in Melbourne.

While the speech titled Red Tape or Gift Wrap: Regulation for exceptional tertiary institutions relates to the future of tertiary education in a changing environment, Alan Finkel says the trucking industry is an example of a regulatory system that rewards the pursuit of excellence.

In news that will be familiar to those in the industry itself, the scientist says the dilemma for trucking and freight movement in Australia is the conflict between the public’s desire for cheap freight and a general dislike of trucks, particularly big trucks.

"So there’s a balance to be struck," Finkel says on conflict.

"Twenty years ago, every jurisdiction would strike a different balance. Roads would cross borders – but the rules wouldn’t.

"Now we are reaping the benefits of the push to a national approach."

This national approach, he says, is underpinned by the use of the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme.

"With care, we have liberalised the length, mass and configuration limits to make way for giant B-triple combinations and BAB-quad road trains," he says.

"And bigger trucks means fewer trucks, and cheaper freight."

To entice the use of bigger trucks, utilising a carrot and stick approach, Finkel says it has been a trade-off, "You can have a bigger truck – if you accept a higher safety threshold."

"The higher safety thresholds are achieved by requiring that new trucks meet performance based standards, as opposed to prescriptive rules," he says.

"In trucking, as in all industries, prescriptive regulations become outdated when technology advances and people find a better way of achieving the same end.

"The end result has been good for the public and good for commerce, with safer trucks that are more cost effective to operate.

"Further, because compliant trailers are not available from international suppliers Australia has maintained an innovative local manufacturing industry worth two and a half billion dollars per annum."

And it appears to be working, if the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s figures are correct, with the industry body announcing an 80 per cent increase in PBS uptake over previous year in October.

Just in the July-to-September quarter, a record 450 new combinations were approved under the scheme, mostly truck and dog combinations.



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