NTC reforms fall short

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says new National Transport Commission (NTC) reforms for heavy vehicles fall short.

The design ‘blueprints’ for quad-axle semi-trailers, quad-axle B-doubles and a B-triple are now available on the NTC website. The designs are pre-approved to meet Performance Based Standards (PBS).

The NTC announced truck operators can use the blueprints to apply for access on approved routes. If operators prefer to develop a different vehicle design to suit their specific needs, its road safety must be similarly assessed using the PBS process.

“In our view, these reforms fall short of the changes needed to improve safety through productivity for the majority of trucking operators,” says ATA chief executive Stuart St Clair.

“Performance Based Standards (PBS) should apply to new, innovative vehicles and not a tool to constrain existing, proven and safe combinations.”

“Burdensome administrative hurdles may ultimately thwart the PBS. A case in point is the constraints proposed for a 19 metre B-double in South Australia — it would need to be compliant with PBS, IAP and NHVAS to operate. Yet, this well-proven vehicle has broad access in other jurisdictions,” St Clair says.

“Our member organisation, the South Australian Road Transport Association provided the SA Government with comments that the proposed compliances make the 19 metre B-double economically unviable, even if it is safer.”

“The NTC’s generic PBS B-triple is a specific vehicle,” St Clair points out.

“In answer to questions by the ATA, the NTC advised that all other B-triples would need to be passed through the PBS approval in their own right. But what of the hundreds of existing B-triples currently in operation and capable of being deployed throughout Australia?”

According to the ATA, the national B-triple network is smaller than the existing road train networks and does not even include some existing B-triple routes. B-triples and AB-triples have been proven safe by years of experience on road train routes and some other routes under permits.

“The ATA believes B-triples can be safely operated on a far wider network of Australian Roads than that currently being offered by the state road agencies,” says St Clair.

“The NTC’s charging proposals for B-triples and other high productivity vehicles, if carried forward will impose significant financial barriers to operators.”

The ATA is very clear about what industry expects to make up modular B-triple combinations. B-triples can be safely formed from existing legal 26, 25 and 23 metre B-double component units. Provided these component units have adequate combination mass ratings they should be allowed to form modular B-triple units.

“Modular combinations reduce the number of truck movements, which in turn reduces accident risk and increases task efficiency,” says Stuart St Clair.

“The ATA encourages more modular combinations, as they are the safe means for converting existing legal fleet units into more efficient combinations to be used on suitable parts of the network — thus, delivering real productivity and safety with existing equipment.”

“Quad axle groups on semi-trailers are not new. Hundreds operate nationally on proven networks for low loaders. The ATA is concerned at protracted delays in specifying road networks for quad-axle general freight vehicles.”

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