Sitting beside the Warrego Highway in Queensland, out on the Darling Downs, can give you a picture of the progress in productivity possible from reform. These roads have been gazetted as Type 1 Road Train routes for many years. However, in the past, with a double road train option available, many of the trucks heading west would be semis and B-doubles.
The practicality of hauling trailers up and down the Toowoomba Range and assembling and disassembling combinations in inadequate parking bays, meant only large loads travelling a very long distance bothered to go to the trouble.
So, even though a double road train was available as an option, it was not thought to be a viable alternative in many circumstances. This is not exactly maximising the productivity potential of the many tasks moving between the Darling Downs and Brisbane.
Now, wind the picture forward to today and there a lot more doubles on the road. The difference is, they are not double road trains, they are A-doubles. There is little difference to the casual observer, but the distinction is important to the industry and the road authorities.
Meeting the criteria for A-double classification for level two of the Performance Based Standards system makes a big difference to all concerned. The operator has examined the task, developed a solution and demonstrated its safety. At the same time, the roads authority have recognised the need for an improved solution to a freight task and worked with industry to make it happen.
Loaded trucks can now load and unload at useful endpoints moving goods from the Brisbane Port area to the Darling Downs and vice versa. For some tasks the productivity has doubled, for others the gains are more modest but worth the effort.
How come this is possible now but wasn’t in the past? There is more than one answer. Of course, the introduction of PBS made the idea more possible, more palatable for those who look after our infrastructure. The operators involved were willing to use the complex PBS process to get the trucks on the road.
One of the most important reasons was a genuine change in the way Queensland Transport (now Transport and Main Roads) thought about the whole process of allowing access. There was a collaborative approach taken by all, industry and regulators both sat in a room and had rational conversations. Queensland Government was looking to use its infrastructure more productively, and so was the Queensland trucking industry.
This is the way the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator also started to think when it came along. It was not a case of what it needed to stop, it was all about what it could improve. This is not a rebranding exercise being driven from the top, so all of the road authorities look alike. Is a rethinking exercise, as a result of which, all of the road authorities around the country act alike.
This is not going to be an easy task. Certain elements are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the brave new world of reasonableness and rationality.
This is where the trucking industry has to step up to the mark. Now is not the time for confrontation and dispute, now is the time for a reasonable consultative approach from everyone in the industry. We need to appear as one on this and willing to compromise at all times.
Slow and steady wins the race, just ask the livestock transporters running double road trains east of the Hume in NSW and the grain exporters running 84 tonne loads down to the Port in Brisbane from the Darling Downs.