ATA calls for PBS reforms to aid expansion

Weaknesses must be tackled first in scheme whose potential is hindered, submission says

ATA calls for PBS reforms to aid expansion
ATA says the barriers to PBS uptake must be removed


The Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme needs a slew of internal and external adjustments if it is fulfil its promise, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) emphasises in its submission the National Transport Commission (NTC).

Noting that expanding the scheme hinges on addressing a range of shortcomings, the ATA’s nine recommendations call for the removal of obstacles to uptake and combination designs, state and local road access improvements and control of regulatory burdens on PBS equipment buyers.

The industry body insists modern braking technologies be mandated in conjunction with updated ADR35/06 and ADR38/05 design rules, with appropriate exemptions which can be used to comply with the PBS’s stability plan.

It also believes a proposed regulatory impact statement (RIS) on a performance based approach being made standard to assess and register new heavy vehicles over 42.5 tonnes should not proceed.

The submission emphasises that PBS scheme must be seen as an ingredient in a productivity-enhancing mix, saying "it should be part of a policy framework that delivers safer, more productive heavy vehicles available under prescriptive regulations, with as of right road access conditions".

"The reported benefits by PBS vehicles is not a narrow result of the use of PBS vehicles, it is part of the wider context of the benefits to improving heavy vehicle productivity in general," it says.

However, red tape and bureaucratic weaknesses are stymieing broader uptake.

"Due to the restrictive nature, limited road access, long lead times and other features of the PBS scheme, it is not suitable to the significant part of the road freight task that does not have predictable freight volumes and does not provide sufficient lead time for PBS approval," the submission continues.

"Additionally, the PBS scheme outcomes are at odds with the nature of current commercial demand. The scheme has facilitated the supply of many rigid truck and trailer sets without an equally steady supply of safer, roll-coupled articulated combinations suitable for linehaul and general freight.

"The practical experience of road freight operators is that while the PBS scheme works well in particular sectors (such as the intense and high volume gravel and cement markets, and for container haulage [excluding containers with unknown load heights]), it only has a limited at best application for the wider road freight sector."

The ATA also warns against a simplistic aim of merely raising the higher-productivity vehicles (HPVs) count.

"The true success of the PBS scheme should not be increasing the number of PBS approvals," the submission states.

"Instead, the best measure of the success of the scheme is how well it facilitates the incorporation of modern, safer, more productive vehicle designs and modular combinations in the prescriptive vehicle designs available for use by trucking operators."

While the association is supportive of almost all the NTC’s seven proposed PBS-boosting actions in its discussion paper, the RIS idea is given short shrift.

"Rather than increasing the regulatory burden on the purchase of new heavy vehicles over 42.5 tonnes, the agenda of governments needs to be focused on reducing regulatory barriers to the use of modern, safer, more productive vehicles, the ATA says.

The ATA submission can be found here.


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