HVIA Welcome NHVR’s Stance On Road Access Reform

HVIA has welcomed the NHVR’s latest discussion paper ‘Removing Roadblocks to Reform’, which takes direct aim at the regulatory barriers that continue to hamper access for higher productivity trucks in Australia.

The paper follows and builds on the NHVR’s 2022 discussion paper, ‘PBS 2.0’ which proposed a raft of changes to improve its Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme.

HVIA has always been committed to working with the NHVR and road managers to improve PBS as a mechanism for promoting safety and productivity, and transitioning proven PBS vehicles away from PBS, and into the ‘as of right’ fleet.

As such, in early 2023 HVIA (as guided by members) provided a comprehensive response to PBS 2.0. A summary of HVIA’s response is available here. The central points were:

  • PBS vehicles must be awarded the same level of access to the road system as their prescriptive counterparts; and
  • Road managers must be held responsible for speeding up access decisions and improving productivity by expanding access.

To that end, HVIA welcomes the stance taken by the NHVR in ‘Removing Roadblocks to Reform’, which is in line with HVIA’s earlier feedback, and puts the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) itself in the crosshairs. Specifically, the new paper recommends:

  • Amending the HVNL to provide clear pathways for proven designs to exit the PBS scheme
  • Amending the HVNL to remove the requirement for all design applications to be referred to the PBS Review Panel for advice; and
  • Amending the PBS Standards and Vehicle Assessment Rules to transfer decision-making responsibility for changes to the PBS Standards to the NHVR Board.

If implemented in an effective way, these changes have the potential to transform the PBS scheme to the extent that was originally envisaged in the 2001 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) principles. Hence, the NHVR’s new direction has HVIA’s full support.

HVIA Chief Technical Officer Adam Ritzinger says the changes have the potential to transform the PBS scheme

“‘Removing Roadblocks to Reform’ makes the urgent case for PBS reform very clear. It uses safety, productivity and environment data to illustrate the cost of continuing without reform,” HVIA Chief Technical Officer Adam Ritzinger says.

“Specifically, it is noted that over an approximate 10-year period, inaction on reform and/or supressing the growth of the PBS fleet may result in an unnecessary additional 4,164 crashes and 47 road fatalities, and the lost opportunity to save of 3.2-3. 8 billion litres of fuel, 8.5-10.1 million tonnes of CO2, and $47.1-$55.6 million in societal costs related to air pollution (e.g. health and amenity).”

NHVR Chief Safety and Productivity Officer David Hourigan says that while the PBS scheme has proven popular, it was initially designed to act as a pathway for innovative designs and technologies to be safely developed and deployed, and is now failing to operate as originally intended.

“Rather than allowing for new truck designs, it is dominated by more or less of the same vehicles,” he says.

“Of more than 20,000 PBS combinations on Australia’s roads, almost half consist of one vehicle type – the truck and dog combination.”

HVIA will prepare a formal response to the discussion paper and will make it available for all members to provide comment on shortly.

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