Moving PBS Forward

moving PBS forward

The concept of Performance Based Standards was always regarded as a great idea, since it came into existence it has failed to live up to the grand expectations many in the industry had for it and it has been hard moving PBS forward. Diesel News looks at the latest review of the scheme.

There are several stages to getting a project to work like clockwork and all of them have to be executed just right. First of all there’s the idea, the invention, but this is followed by the innovation, putting it into practice, get that right and then you have a fully functioning success.

With Performance Based Standards it started off with a fantastic idea. We Australians are very good a great ideas. Then came the part where drilling down to the details creates the basic tenets of the scheme and how it will work. In the case of the PBS Scheme the first task was to set out the standards which would be the backbone of the process. These set out just what a vehicle must be able to do and the parameters within which it must perform.

When the standards were set out, it was necessary to work out how to assess them in a design. This was where the truck engineering simulation software comes in as the engineer can tweak the design within the program until it is shown to meet the standards. Further approval came from a review board and then certification of the final combination by a qualified engineer.

The final sign off comes from the road manager on the route over which the trucks would travel. This has been one of the main bugbears to the process, with local authorities lacking understanding of the concept or adding extra unnecessary conditions in order for operators to access the route. 

In the early years after the introduction of PBS, it floundered as road managers failed to classify roads clearly, if at all, and operators got frustrated with waiting for permission to utilise high productivity vehicles, which clearly had a community benefit. There was a process, but it lacked flexibility and transparency, no-one was happy with the situation.

This frustration has built up at the same time as the number of trucks involved in the scheme has started to pick up. Operators have a found a couple of sweet spots where productivity gains could be gained relatively simply. The extra long tipper and dog plus the A-double have both flourished, in some areas, despite a flawed system.


moving PBS forward


“Baby steps is the way a lot of great things have been achieved in the past,” says Rob Di Cristoforo, Managing Director of Advantia, one of the group of companies helping operators develop PBS vehicles. “For example, have a trial phase with conditions, and then relax the conditions. 

“Without those approaches to things we wouldn’t have got anywhere. We wouldn’t even have B-doubles. We can’t expect to get everything in one go, but let’s face it, we’ve been taking baby steps with PBS for more than a decade. We’re still facing case by case road access decisions for vehicles that deserve automatic network access. I think it’s time we learned to run.

“We’ve had conversations with operators who make it clear they can get the costs of a PBS vehicle back in a very short time, but that’s only if they get the access.”


moving PBS forward


Ten years into a project of this type, it was time for a full scale review and that is what the National Transport Commission pulled together and then published earlier this year. It pointed out a number of improvements and these went to the meeting of the Federal and State Transport Ministers, where they picked up ministerial approval.

There will be changes coming down the pike, all aimed at improving the effectiveness of the scheme. How well any changes can manage to get a real improvement in getting access approvals out of road managers is still a moot point, but improvements to the whole process will be welcomed by many of those operators who are champing at the bit to get some innovative trucks on the road an benefit from much improved productivity. 

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