When looking at the Performance Based Standards scheme it is clear there are detailed changes to be made. Amendments to the scheme are needed just in terms of the time which has elapsed since the initial structure was laid out. Technical changes like the widespread adoption of stability systems along with EBS across many more trucks means some of the stability parameters called for in the standards can be met electronically and not physically by the design of the truck.
The computer assessment process does not include any of these modern systems. The designer has to assume the truck and trailer are fitted with the most rudimentary simple systems and cannot assume there will be any electronic intervention from modern safety systems.
Simplification of the process of getting some truck designs on the road can be considerably improved because the authorities (the PBS scheme is now administered by the national Heavy Vehicle Regulator) have had 10 years of experience in reviewing and approving PBS vehicles. There is enough data in the system for NHVR to be able to sign off on some of the more popular designs without having to refer them to the review panel.
There are also many routes criss crossing the country which have been approved for different PBS levels to use. This means there is no logical reason why any truck meeting the specifications for a particular level of PBS cannot get ‘as-of-right’ access to those routes already allowing that class of vehicle to use them.
“The four main PBS road access levels are supposed to align with general access and the three restricted access networks for B-doubles, Type 1 road trains and Type 2 road trains,” says Rob. “Ministers unanimously agreed to this in 2007. Now it’s clear that all road managers except Queensland have gone with networks that don’t achieve that policy intent, and probably never will.
“Aligning the networks would be a step towards migrating some PBS designs across into the prescriptive vehicle regime, with the most likely candidate being the, almost standard, 20-metre tipper and dog.”
The time table for some changes are relatively quick with the recommendation for all States to identify their PBS network and classify them, in terms of PBS level. This should enable the NHVR to then publish National Notices on them by June 2021, a tight deadline. This may change the way the routes are assessed or it may mean simply putting the existing maps online.
Another tight deadline has been set for a project to create a consistent national methodology for assessing roads and their capabilities. Guidelines have to be in by the end of 2019 and the authorities are to transition across to the new way of thinking by June 2020.
There is a guideline for assessing infrastructure, which came as part of the PBS package. Unfortunately, they are not complete and don’t cover all of the areas the road managers are concerned about. As a result, road managers have expanded on the basic guidelines and they are all slightly different.
“Ideally, it would be great for there to be a national document on how to assess a road’s capability, which everyone agrees to,” says Rob. “Until we get there, though, if we at least have everyone using their own document that they are happy with and it makes things quick and easy, that’s going to be OK in my book.”
At the moment there are inconsistencies occurring on a state by state basis. New South Wales wants tri-axle dollies on A-doubles East of the Newell. Queensland does not like tri-axle dollies and Victoria does not have a policy about them at all.
“In a typical case, like running an A-double from NSW to Victoria, we have to get a drawing of the combination and check it against the VicRoads envelopes,” explains Rob. “If it doesn’t match any of those, we get them to change some dimensions to match one of the envelopes. This means they get some decent access on the Victorian network.
“Then for the New South Wales part, we don’t know. The goalposts keep moving. One day rest area parking bays are the problem. Then it’s a need for road duplication. Then it’s rail level crossing signal timing. They say nothing can be longer than 26 metres on certain corridors until all of these things are sorted, but we can’t just sit here and wait for it or it won’t happen. We have to keep submit applications, making enquiries, pushing, to highlight the demand that’s out there.”