The Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) is critical of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) lack of action on the proposed changes to the Performance Based Standards Scheme.

The HVIA called for changes to the PBS to ensure safety, productivity and viability, highlighting that the ability to use trucks and trailers of any age with only load-sensing brake technology is a concern in any PBS application, but particularly heavy truck and dog combinations.

The problems identified by HVIA show the minimum PBS requirements to have fallen behind the Australian Design Rules required for new trucks supplied in the last two years (which require ABS) and only just match them for any trailer combination (which require ABS or load sensing).

While the NHVR said it will consider the HVIA’s changes, it won’t take any action until Austroad’s report which is not due until the middle of next year.

Over the last four years there has been a surge in PBS truck and dog combinations with many utilised for metropolitan infrastructure projects.

“The NHVR is of the opinion that it would be beneficial to consider the outcomes of the Austroads research before any potential changes in the PBS Vehicle Assessment Rules are considered,” said Geoff Casey, the NHVR’s executive director of productivity and safety.

HVIA chief executive, Brett Wright believes the NHVR should be acting now.

“It makes no sense to wait, given that the PBS scheme’s intent is to encourage and facilitate innovative design and engineering but with safety as its cornerstone. PBS vehicles are the flagships of the heavy vehicle fleet.  In fact, the scheme is touted as an international benchmark,” he said.

“The ten-year-old scheme has been a slow burn until the last few years when its advantages have become apparent to transport operators seeking higher productivity combinations for specialist tasks.

“Now many more operators are enjoying the scheme’s benefits, however without the rigour that the scheme has promised other road users.”

“Of course, it is in everyone’s best interests that the PBS scheme continues to grow. It allows the transport industry to move freight far more efficiently.”

“The payback however, has to be adhering to benchmark safety requirements. HVIA has identified that the PBS scheme is at risk given the age loophole and low, outdated braking standards required for approval.

“Should at any point, we witness a serious accident involving one of the poorer performing PBS vehicles there is a high risk that the scheme could be negatively impacted.”

Wright cited the regulatory response to the fatal tanker crashes in 2013 and 2014 which sparked a complete review of the roadworthiness system and Chain of Responsibility Law.

“We don’t want to see another tragic accident nor the reactive, rather than proactive policy responses” Wright added.

“Unfortunately the bureaucratic chain can be cumbersome in delivering outcomes, no matter how good the case is for change. The NHVR, however, has the power to implement simple, tangible measures that will ensure that the intent of the law is delivered in the most practical way.

“A robust PBS scheme encourages and improves productivity, but more than anything, delivers a safer transport environment for the community, through proactive risk management,” Wright said.