It has been a long and harrowing ride for some of those involved, the process of driving PBS forward looks like it has finally gained some real traction. When the whole idea of Performance Based Standards was first mooted in the 1990s, it was touted as the ultimate solution for many of the problems of the Australian trucking industry.
It was sold as a way of tapping into the legendary Aussie ingenuity which had given the country some major productivity wins in the past. The whole idea was seen as a nirvana in which trucks would develop into roles and on which there were no limits.
Then reality hit and the brakes were jammed on even before the process began to take shape. The concept was difficult one to sell to government departments and also to each state jurisdiction separately. The obstacles just seemed to get bigger each year.
The basic principles were clarified quite early in the process with some clearly defined performance criteria developed for each class of vehicles and the roads they would be allowed to run on. Some of the technical terms which now entered the lexicon of truck assessment took a bit of time for the trucking world to get its collective head around.
We understood what Startability, Gradeability and Swept Path meant when it came to assessing trucks, but now we were talking about Rearward Amplification, Static Rollover Threshold, High-Speed Transient Offtracking and the, mysterious, Yaw Damping Coefficient. All of these had values which had to be met in a proposed design before they could enter the process.
And what a process it was for the early pioneers of this kind of design philosophy? The vehicle standards people had to be convinced, as did the various roads authorities and lastly the road managers themselves.
Practical demonstrations had to be held to justify the continued development of PBS. The computer aided design gurus had modelled their new innovative solutions but now thew authorities wanted to see just how these vehicles performed in the real world (there was little trust in this kind of computer modelling in 2000).
A section of highway in Perth was closed down for a few days and some made up combinations were run through the testing done in computer simulations, but in the real world. The results were as the engineers had predicted or better, I can remember PBS pioneer, Les Brusza, expressing surprise at how well the extra long truck and dog had performed in the trials. Importantly, representatives from the state authorities were on hand to see the computer results verified in the hard metal on real roads.
Then the whole project seemed to disappear off the radar for some time. In fact, the machinery to build a PBS system was being constructed in the background. There was the formation of the PBS Review Panel with a mix of representatives to go through each individual application and sign off on its viability.
At the same time the accreditation was needed of assessors who could put together design to meet operators’ needs and demonstrate their ability to pass meet the standards required, in computer simulations. Next, certifiers had to be accredited, people who could look at the completed vehicle and verify it met the design criteria laid out by the assessor and passed by the Review Panel.
All of that is now behind us. It has been ten years since PBS came into being. After a very slow start the process seems to have hit its stride in the past couple of years.