An immediate review of PBS standards is to take place and there is one to be carried out every seven years by the NHVR. All of the new technologies which have appeared since the scheme began ten years ago are to be considered. There is also a call to look at the ongoing tyre issues for PBS operators.
The recommendations also want the structure of PBS to be re-examined. The question as to whether the current four levels of PBS vehicle classification are suitable in today’s trucking industry needs to be answered. This question also suggests the move may be to align the PBS classifications more closely with those of non-PBS vehicles, which was the original intention.
The original PBS levels, above general access, were designed to coincide with the networks for B-double, Type 1 and Type 2 road trains, but many road managers, inexplicably, chose to create less consistent networks.
“The Level 2B networks (between 26 and 30 metres long) seem to be where everyone wants to go. Having a fair dinkum Level 2B network published nationwide will be great,” says Rob Di Cristoforo. “Victoria is leading the charge there, with the Level 2B network almost mirroring the 26 metre network as long as you’re not running high mass. And if you are, they’ll give you as much as they can within the limits of the bridges.
“In Queensland sit’s not so easy. Say we ask for 85 tonnes, we wait several months and the reply is just ‘no.’ So we ask how high can we go, but all we get is ‘you need to submit another application with a lower mass.’ In one case we went through this four times. This is shooting in the dark, blindfolded. It’s just crazy.
“We need all of the maps published online, not just Levels 1 to 4, but also 2B, 3B and 4B. Level 1 shouldn’t be a map, it should be general access up to 50.5 tonnes, as agreed by Ministers a decade ago. Levels 2A, 3A and 4A should mirror B-double, double road train and triple road train networks, like in Queensland.”
Aligning the networks better could be a step towards migrating some PBS designs across into the prescriptive vehicle classification regime, with the most likely candidate being the, almost standard, long tow bar 19.5 metre tipper and dog.
In a report prepared by Rob for Austroads earlier this year, he commented:
It is a unique challenge for road managers to approve road access for High Productivity Freight Vehicles. Typically a product of the Performance Based Standards Scheme, the larger and heavier road freight vehicles of today have the potential to exceed the geometric and structural capacity of our road system. More often than not, however, barriers to access approval for these vehicles have no basis in infrastructure capacity. Regardless of their basis, barriers must be identified and overcome if Australia’s world-leading progression towards safer and more efficient road freight transport is to continue.
Local road managers are subject to specific challenges not faced by their state and territory counterparts. Those challenges were perhaps not sufficiently recognised and acknowledged by those who developed and promoted the Performance Based Standards Scheme over the past two decades. This, coupled with the importance of local road access to many transport tasks, puts the challenges currently faced by local road managers front and centre in this research.