HVIA calls for interim approvals to defuse PBS crisis

By: Rob McKay

Patience lost after six months of warnings and negotiation on approvals delays

HVIA calls for interim approvals to defuse PBS crisis
Todd Hacking


Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) sees an "interim approval mechanism" as a crucial short-term measure to tackle an immediate Performance Based Standards (PBS) approval crisis while longer-term issues are worked through.

Such a solution might see steps including engineer and the National Heavy Vehicle Industry Regulator (NHVR) design approval, combination built to that approval and certifying engineer examination and sign off on it.

"HVIA is willing to work through policy solutions with the NHVR," HVIA chief executive Todd Hacking tells ATN.

"There are a whole range of solutions that we are looking at.

"One of them, though, would include an interim approval mechanism that would allow the vehicles to at least operate pending a formal approval from the NHVR."

The comments follow an "urgent and passionate" plea to the NHVR to solve the issue.

According to HVIA, its demand "follows six months of private and cooperative negotiations by phone, email and face-to-face meetings to try and assist the NHVR overcome these operational issues".

"The situation is now dire," Hacking says. 

"HVIA has been trying to help the NHVR behind the scenes but the time has come to make our concerns public.

"Vehicle standards related functions like PBS are under-resourced across all levels of Government but the PBS situation is out of control. 

"Applications go missing, consultation is limited, response timeframes are not being met and when our members try and find out what is going on, they are lucky to get a reply.

"Personally, I am grateful to the NHVR for the ongoing service I have received, but sadly this is not the reality for HVIA members.

"Whether they are trailer manufacturers, assessors or certifiers, their pleas are all too often ignored, or given the run-around; the lack of empathy and communication is beyond frustrating."

Read about the Victorian action pledge on PBS access, here

The chain reaction is said to be creating tension with HVIA members’ own customers.

"Everyone is hurting; operators tell me the cost is about $50,000 a month," Hacking says.

"Some trailer manufacturers are not getting paid, so they are withholding payments to their service providers – it hurts the entire PBS supply chain.

"Had the NHVR acted and applied additional resources when we told them last November, we would not be in this disastrous situation now.

"The industry is busy – blind Freddy could tell you that – we all want PBS to work; we are invested in the system, but this will quickly kill off the scheme if a solution is not found now, and implemented tomorrow – six to twelve months’ time is simply unacceptable.

He calls on the NHVR to respond better to industry.

"Our members need accurate, detailed, empathetic communication on when they will get their Vehicle Approval and any issues that need to be resolved," Hacking says.

"This would help manage expectations, but this needs to start today!"

The NHVR acknowledges the concerns in a statement to ATN.

"The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is aware of concerns relating to the Performance Based Standards (PBS) approval process," the statement reads.

"We’re meeting with stakeholders this week to address the concerns raised.

"The NHVR is committed to the success of the PBS scheme and will continue to work with all stakeholders to improve service delivery and reduce turnaround times." 

HVIA frustration follows reports from members pointing out approvals that once took as little as 48 hours is now around 15-20 days.

With the trucking industry barely missing a beat through last year’s pandemic and the economic recovery underway, there is deep concern that more applications arriving than the regulator has the present personnel to deal with, thereby progressively blowing out approval times further.

Complicating matters for the NHVR will be competition for suitably qualified staff from state transport departments and the industry itself at a time when the sector as a whole is complaining of a broader skills shortage years in the making.


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