Where to next for PBS?

The Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme continues to go from strength to strength.

Since, its introduction in 2007 PBS has transformed the movement of freight in Australia, putting safer, more productive vehicles on our roads and encouraging innovative approaches to the significant transport task.

By the end of October there were more than 11,300 approved PBS combinations in Australia, with even the COVID pandemic having minimal impact on the enthusiastic industry uptake of PBS vehicles.

The success of the scheme is such that we expect to reach 12,000 PBS combinations over the next few months, a number which had initially been projected to be reached by 2030.

This momentum has established Australia as a clear, international leader in innovative vehicle design with jurisdictions in Europe, the United States and South Africa seeking out the NHVR’s expertise to implement similar schemes to aid their own freight tasks.

To ensure this success continues, the NHVR is delivering a program of improvements to the scheme so that it remains forward-thinking and useful to the industry as technology continues to develop.

We are approaching this through enhancements to the technical aspects, improving the efficiency of the scheme as well as supporting efforts to extend network access to PBS vehicles on freight routes.

We are currently reviewing the PBS standards beginning with the frontal swing, pavement horizontal loading and braking standards. A key early outcome of the review was an amendment to the frontal swing standard earlier this year, allowing for greater flexibility for PBS vehicle designs.

By increasing the frontal swing performance measures from 0.7m to 0.85m we were able to address industry concerns and reduce the need for PBS vehicles to obtain frontal swing exemptions, especially A-Double and truck and dog combinations.

The PBS Tyre Review is also ongoing, with on-road testing delayed due to border restrictions hopefully getting underway early in the New Year.

The current review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law, also presents significant opportunities to improve and streamline the scheme.

Key to the review is how we migrate mature PBS designs and combinations into the prescriptive fleet.

This will not only improve the efficiency of our prescriptive fleet, but also creates bandwidth for those within the PBS scheme to focus on the next generation of innovation.

For example, the truck and dog continues to be the most popular PBS combination, with most applications being very similar. We know that industry would benefit from an integration of these combinations to the prescriptive fleet.

The other question considered by the HVNL review is technology. The time is right to look at how we can look at integrating new technological advances within the PBS standards.

All this work leads us towards what we are calling PBS 2.0, the NHVR’s vision for the next generation of PBS that learns from the journey so far and reforms the scheme to support innovation, safety and productivity.

The other key part of our approach to encourage uptake of PBS vehicles is through enhancing access across freight routes.

Our Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project (SLGAAP) is working to support councils across the country with engineering and access assistance on these key routes.

Through SLGAAP, local governments will be able to better understand their existing assets and support more access requests for a range of vehicles, including PBS. After successfully piloting the approach, with twelve councils this year, we recently sought nominations of assets from councils for Round 1 of the project and received an overwhelmingly positive response.

It shows that the appetite is there from local governments who can see the productivity, amenity and safety benefits PBS can bring.

In the coming months, the results from the Pilot and Round 1 asset assessments will be available to local government road managers as well as industry, informing route planning and related permit application processes.

The PBS scheme is something the NHVR takes great pride in. As it matures we are seeing more and more how it has already fundamentally changed the way we move freight in this country while delivering significant safety and productivity benefits.

I look forward to continuing to work with the industry to improve and grow the scheme, for the benefit of all road users and our broader economy.

Sal Petroccitto,

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