There are Always More Road Blocks

For the trucking industry there are always more road blocks appearing to stymie the ongoing drive for improved productivity and safety. Every time we think we are making some real progress another problem pops up and appears almost insuperable. No wonder many in the trucking industry are constantly feeling under pressure and frustrated.

The latest example which I have come across is the use of PBS vehicles to haul timber in the bottom right hand corner of South Australia. Just as we thought we were getting to the point where access issues were being addressed, more issues are created to hold back development.

The great thing about Performance Based Standards is the fact it’s a win/win for both the industry and the community. Everyone has something to gain from more trucks on the road being part of the PBS scheme.

The theory is wonderful. The trucking industry will invest in innovation and smart design to achieve better productivity and get a chance to make a profit from their transport operations. For the truck and trailer manufacturers it means there are going to be new customers, willing to pay a premium price for new equipment.

This is all fantastic and positive for industry. The pay-off will be a better outcome for the general community. In return for the improved productivity for trucking, the trucks have to be built to a higher safety standard, with all of the latest bells and whistles, running systems with more three letter abbreviations than you can poke a stick at.

One of those three letter abbreviations, IAP, means the authorities can keep an eye on the conduct of the operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This has the effect of guaranteeing compliance and virtually eliminating the risk of grossly overloaded trucks travelling on the roads in your area.

So, here we are with the trucking industry being happy to increase productivity, but not so happy at paying higher prices for equipment. The manufacturers get to sell new, more expensive gear, and are incentivised to help out by coming up new ideas which are even better. The community has safer trucks running on their roads and the chance of them being non-compliant and overloaded is reduced considerably.

No-one loses out here? So we may think, but it seems there are some people who are not happy about all of this wonderful stuff.

One of the road blocks has been local councils. Initially it was the issue of each operator going to every jurisdiction through which they passed to get permission. Then we had the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator helping out with the task and getting local councils up to speed and helpful. A lot of hard work was done both by the industry and the NSW government to highlight last mile access in country areas.

However, in South Australia the industry is on board for PBS, so is the local council, responsibly supporting local industry and employment. No, here the issue is the South Australia Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Everyone else in the chain, from the NHVR down to the local mayor are on board, but someone at the the DPTI doesn’t see this as a win/win.

Timber haulers have done the hard yards and got quad/quad B-double and A-double designs approved. However one of the vital steps in the chain of events leading up to putting a truck on the road, the granting of permits for vehicles, is becoming a drawn out and frustrating process.

It has got to the point where PBS truck owners can only use the trucks on limited jobs or at limited masses. This also means others wishing to invest in better, safer equipment are not putting any more money into developing improved trucks and trailers until the road block erected by the DPTI is dismantled, or, at least, made a little smaller. Don’t hold your breath!