Year in Review

Increasing competition among road managers and regulators is illustrative of a raft of positive trends being seen in the PBS sphere according to Tiger Spider’s Marcus Coleman.

I want to emphasise the positive Performance-Based Standards (PBS) developments of 2022.

Expanded High Productivity Networks, particularly A-doubles in NSW and more Reference Vehicles like AB-triples and B-triples in Victoria.

Greater acceptance of semi-trailers with multiple axle groups, like spread quad and split tri-axles, which promise to take the emphasis off truck and dogs and finally deliver broad productivity gains for semi-trailers — the work horse of the Australian fleet.

Thanks to spread axle groups, prime mover semi-trailers may finally get the same weights and access as truck and dogs, 50.5 tonnes PBS Level 1 and up to 57.5 tonnes PBS Level 2.

Semi-trailers are inherently more stable and safer than truck and dogs and operate across more industry sectors so should have a greater productivity impact.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has been working on developing new standards which will help facilitate these vehicles and it promises to herald in an exciting new phase of PBS opportunities.

Industry is also discovering new ways to leverage the current scheme and take advantage of PBS to implement novel vehicle designs.

For example, wider vehicles with technologies to improve workplace safety can get general access without a permit through PBS, and rigid trucks previously constrained by rear overhang.

Tiger Spider has been working with the Concrete Pump Association of Australia (CPAA) on improving concrete pump road safety and a key part of the work is reviewing PBS low speed turning requirements applied to large rigid concrete pump trucks.

We’ve completed an extensive review of international standards and technologies and field tests that leverage the latest vehicle measurement technology to give accurate measurements of how much road space these vehicles take up.

The work is partly funded through the NHVR Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI). We propose an alternative Low Speed Swept Path (LSSP) performance standard for concrete pump trucks.

However, there is no reason this standard cannot be applied to all PBS combinations.

Confirming vehicle dimensions using LIDAR.

It would be particularly useful for rigid trucks and buses which currently don’t benefit much from PBS. Manoeuvrability and road space demand can be improved without impacting productivity and vehicle length.

By allowing more Tail Swing (TS), hence rear overhang, whilst reducing LSSP and Frontal Swing (FS) front axle weight can be reduced, and better weight distribution achieved on long rigid trucks.

This change compliments the revised Pavement Horizontal Loading Standard (PHLS) work that the NHVR has been progressing and the generic tyre approach.

The implementation of generic tyres has taken longer than expected but the NHVR has had to work through many contentious technical and policy issues.

The new system will incentivise tyres with higher load ratings. This doesn’t guarantee better cornering performance, but it may reduce tyre failure risk.

The most recent update from the NHVR removes certain truck and quad dogs from PBS. The NHVR released the notice in late September, which came as a surprise to many since consultation was limited.

It has disappointed some, as many operators have combinations that fail to meet the requirements of the notice.

Despite having all their equipment inspected and certified to pass PBS, they are now competing with operators of conventional truck and quad dogs who believe they have a green light to operate at 57.5 tonnes without restriction.

Manufacturers are getting pressure to change designs, reduce prices and explain why their truck and dog still needs PBS. Assessors and Certifiers are wondering why they’ve had to ensure all applications have ‘Is’ dotted and ‘Ts’ crossed and measurements millimetre perfect, but now it’s fine for operators and enforcement officers to assess themselves without any technical training or assurance processes.

More Tail Swing can be allowed without increasing road space.

It is critical that the NHVR achieve internal consistency with PBS reforms and doesn’t undermine the hard-fought gains and trust built with road managers.

PBS has always been a long game, the short answer from road managers is always no. It has taken years of steady operation, consistency and a track record of success to win over the naysayers within industry and government.

There is no free lunch — the pursuit of ever greater efficiency brings complexity. We mustn’t throw in the towel when it gets a little tricky and return to 20th century policies.

We need to embrace the data challenge, put appropriate quality and verification systems in place and lift the laggards up to industry best practice.

The NHVR claims that all truck and dogs that comply with the new notice are PBS compliant.

The generic tyre policy, when implemented, will do the same. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of an accident this may not hold true, and the onus is now on operators to show they comply with the notice.

An operator cannot argue reasonable steps as easily without an independently certified PBS approval in place. I’ve recently been involved in several meetings with operators and their customers about heavy vehicle accidents.

Chain of responsibly demands answers. Invariably ex-post analysis of non-PBS vehicles confirms that accident risks may have been reduced if the vehicles complied with all PBS standards. PBS compliance up front can avoid costly modifications down the line if freight customers demand actions before allowing fleets back on the road. The future looks bright for PBS. There is competition amongst road managers and regulators to put automated systems in place to finally solve the bridge assessment problem. State road managers are feeding off each other and agreeing on high productivity vehicle access frameworks and networks.

The NHVR is slowly, but surely, improving the reform and putting the building blocks in place for PBS 2.0.

Hopefully it can deliver both better processing efficiency and more flexible standards that will facilitate even more innovative vehicle design and ever greater productivity, safety and sustainability.

Road space measurement using LIDAR.



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