PBS Access Schmozzle

PBS Access Schmozzle

This week’s Global Heavy Vehicle Leaders summit threw up a great illustration of the PBS access schmozzle and its implications for both trucking operators and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. 

In a conference situation a trucking operator, Paul Cootes, who is frustrated with the road blocks to getting a final sign off from local road managers to allow access for PBS tippers, took the opportunity to get stuck into Sal Petroccitto, NHVR CEO, about the slowness of the access decision-making.

The situation became more heated when Sal fired up in response, defending the work of the access team at the NHVR and their Access Portal. This was also clearly a result of frustration, probably at the stubborn attitude of some of the road managers who have the final say in getting a PBS permit up.

He was clearly also frustrated at the way the trucking industry blamed the NHVR access system for the delays. The Access Portal has sped up the process of getting PBS access approval by speeding up the way the permit is applied for and passed on for a final tick from the road manager. The road managers have also been trained up in many cases and are able to sign off on most applications in a timely manner (they have 28 days).

It’s where there is a sticking point in the mind of the road manager that the trouble starts. Unfortunately, the frustration starts here, but the operator doesn’t know how long that frustration is going to last. They don’t know how long the truck or trailer will remain idle, awaiting a permit.

So both sides of the argument are getting heated, but the real culprit isn’t in the room. In fact, the real culprit is never in the room. Road managers are moving in the shadows rarely showing their faces and causing mayhem. Their lack of flexibility and transparency is creating issues and tension between two sides of a debate who should be working together and not going hammer and tongs at five paces in a conference room.

The road managers are to blame, but their lack of action on route approval often comes from a lack of knowledge or resources on the part of the local authority whose routes they manage. The lack of communication leaves everyone in the dark. The operator is unable to understand why the permit is taking so long, the NHVR is waiting for feedback on the application and the road manager may be trying to assess a route which has not been assessed for this type of truck before.

The route may need an appraisal, but often the authority can lack the expertise to do a watertight assessment and has to bring in someone from the outside. The resources to pay for this outside help may not always be forthcoming or accessible on short notice.

What’s the solution? As usual the solution is complex and will take a long time. One option which will speed up the process is something Sal brought up. If the road manager doesn’t get back to the NHVR within a set timeframe, then the permit is deemed to have been allowed.

This would be effective and would stop all of these long and unnecessary delays, but how likely is a measure like this to get approved by the jurisdictions. The process would involve agreement by state governments and the local government community. Good luck with that one, you’ll be waiting a long time for your answer.

One thing which might take the heat out of the situation is if the trucking industry had a better understanding of exactly where the road block occurs and who is responsible. The question has to be, whose job is it to get the information out to the trucking world? Should the trucking world get itself informed or should NHVR be communicating the story? Perhaps we should ask Paul and Sal for their opinion?