PBS changes will encourage further innovation in the heavy vehicle industry

Published: 05 Jun 2018

Australia’s transport ministers have approved National Transport Commission (NTC) recommendations to improve the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme and encourage investment in a greater number of safer, efficient heavy vehicles on Australian roads.

“PBS scheme vehicles offer between 15 and 30 per cent more productivity than conventional heavy vehicles, depending on the freight being carried. This means the same freight task can be delivered with fewer vehicles on our roads and the flow-on effects include reductions in fuel consumption, carbon emissions and road maintenance costs,” said NTC Chief Executive, Paul Retter.

“However, our review of the PBS scheme has revealed that the take up of the scheme has not been as strong as it could be because of issues such as barriers to access, leading to a reluctance from industry to participate.”

Mr Retter said that the NTC has made several recommendations to address these barriers and, as a result, encourage further adoption of the scheme to ensure the original safety, productivity and environmental objectives can be reached.

The key recommendation from the review was for states and territories to allow as-of-right access for PBS certified vehicles to operate on PBS declared road networks.

This will address one of the main barriers to the scheme by substantially improving the infrastructure access approval process for PBS approved vehicles.

Other recommendations approved by ministers include:

  • Austroads to design nationally consistent guidelines for road managers to assess infrastructure, including pavement and bridges
  • National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to review and revise the PBS standards (the requirements for a vehicle to participate in the PBS scheme) to ensure they reflect the latest in vehicle technology and design and as a result improve the safety performance of the PBS fleet. The current PBS standards were developed in the late 1990s and technology has improved to a level where  compliance against a number of these standards can now be achieved through alternative solutions such as anti-lock braking system / electronic braking system and roll-over protection that meets the stability and braking requirements.
  • NHVR to develop and lead the development of a communications plan to further promote the benefits of the PBS.

“Despite the current scheme’s limitations, the review found evidence that it has still delivered significant benefits, including savings of an estimated 94 million litres of fuel in 2016, which in turn reduced carbon emissions by about 250,000 tonnes,” said Mr Retter.

“There are currently around 16,000 separate PBS registered trucks, trailers and buses which address some of the unique freight and environmental challenges we face in Australia, and we hope that these changes will allow the scheme to continue to grow.”

The NTC will now work closely with road managers, the NHVR and Austroads to implement the recommendations of the review.