Industry Issues, NHVR

PBS of the Future

PBS of the Future

Scott Britton, Project Manager of the PBS Review at the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator explained the PBS of the future, at a NatRoad Conference. The project to map out the future plans for the PBS scheme began in 2019.

“The scheme itself needs to evolve and needs to move on, it needs to represent contemporary best practice,” said Scott. “What did we actually think would happen way back? In 2012, a Regulatory Impact Statement expected a high end scenario, around 14,000 combinations by 2030. We’re well in excess of that now with over 20,000 combinations growing by about 350 a month.

“It’s been widely accepted by industry. However, there are elements which are holding back its development and its ongoing effectiveness. The predominant combination types are truck and dog, A-double, semi, and B-double. Now, we’re starting to get semis with split axle groups.

“Truck and dog still represents roughly 50 per cent of the scheme, but that’s changing. A bigger and bigger portion of the overall pie is the A-double, year on year growth for the last three years has been around 40 per cent.”

Looking at the scheme’s future, there is a standards review in which progress has been painfully slow. Les Brusza and some international experts have spent a lot of time proving that operators do not need to have tyres on PBS combinations nominated by position, by brand and by model, simplifying the process.

Looking at the future of the scheme itself, the PBS 2.0 project, is NHVR’s flagship for the future direction of the scheme. A lot of work has been done to pre-consulting with the jurisdictions to get an understanding of their appetite for change.

“We need a contemporary process that allows us to actually manage PBS standards, to actually shift the control of that document to the NHVR,” said Scott.

“It’s a legacy issue, we’ve got control of the process but we can’t actually put it into effect. We believe wholesale changes should still go before ministers, they should still represent the highest value in decision making and risk acceptance. Often smaller changes, should simply be a function of delegation to the NHVR board, giving us a fully enabled law, which allows us to actually get on with regulating the industry.

“The second element is that everyone should have access to PBS combinations. We’ve come up with a solution, a lifecycle for a PBS combination. We’re looking at a process from conception of an idea though to moving these vehicles out of an innovation space and putting them into a normal fleet.

“The PBS scheme itself was not designed as a regulatory mechanism. It was designed to allow industry to innovate, to test concepts, to put them out there, prove that they are safe, prove that they’re productive, and then for them to enter into mainstream service.”

Image: Prime Creative Media

NHVR would like to get the scheme back to those origins, get the scheme to innovate more and create a mechanism alongside it that then can take that proven work and then just make that readily available to industry.

At the moment, the design goes through a design approval, building, certification, vehicle approval and access permit process.

The plan is that, as a combination comes through the scheme, then grows in popularity and matures and its safety performance becomes known, the NHVR takes that experience and does the work to create a master design approval, which the NHVR are calling it a template.

This template would be made readily available on the website for anyone within the industry to download and then take this blueprint to a manufacturer and get a combination built. Each truck will have to go through the certification process, when built.

Once the truck evolves through that second stage and there is absolute certainty about the safety and productivity benefits, then the NHVR want to take it out of the PBS process completely and put it into what they plan to call the ‘high performance fleet’.

“Effectively it’s still part of the PBS scheme, but it’s just removed from the PBS process itself,” said Scott.

“We can think of PBS, as being an overarching policy umbrella and there’s one bucket underneath that umbrella and everything’s in it. We effectively want to split that bucket into two, so that you have that innovation bucket where everything comes in. It’s new, it’s tested, it’s going through the process of proving itself, but once done, we throw it into that second bucket.

“Operators can pick up a template, build it and operate. The reason why we’ve gone with this system is to deliberately work in the current law context, so we can deal with the access certainty. We’ve done extensive work to develop networks for PBS combinations under notice.”

Eventually, those blueprints for the ‘high performance fleet’ would be a library of a series of templates, operators would pick that template and then own and operate the truck. As the templates are in the PBS scheme, they can evolve over time, as the standards and ADRs evolve.

“Our view is that we need to have a process that is supported by technical experts from industry, who can come in and have that debate about technical policy development and evolution of those standards, so that we can actually drive the standards in the right direction,” said Scott.


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