Case Study C7: Performance-based standards allow for heavy vehicle innovation
Australian transport ministers are considering introducing performance-based standards (PBS) for the regulation of heavy vehicles, to open up safer, more efficient options for road transport.
Rather than measuring how big and heavy a vehicle is, PBS focuses on how well the vehicle behaves on the road, as measured through a set of safety and infrastructure protection standards. This allows opportunities for industry to innovate in designing heavy vehicles, leading to improved productivity, safer performance and more manageable effects on roads and bridges.
During 2006-07 the Department participated in the work of the PBS Interim Review Panel established in 2005 to test potential PBS rules and processes. The panel has examined many innovative vehicles, ranging from rigid trucks to road trains. The vehicles have some features in common: they are safer, they have potential to move goods more efficiently, and they demonstrate superior on-road performance to that of the current heavy vehicle fleet.
Under the proposed PBS policy the new combinations will need to satisfy stringent safety standards in areas such as stability, high-speed and low-speed tracking and vehicle acceleration and braking. In effect, they will perform significantly better than existing heavy vehicles operating under the current prescriptive rules.
In particular, the National Transport Commission (NTC) has recommended a B-triple combination for use on a defined national network. This combination, based on a standard B-double (a prime mover towing two semi-trailers) with an extra A-trailer, can be assembled from existing vehicle and trailer components. In terms of productivity, five semi-trailers are equivalent to three B-doubles, which are equivalent to two B-triples. Compared with a B-double, the B-triple could result in up to 35 per cent increases in productivity, potentially shorten queuing times, occupy less road space and use less fuel while producing fewer carbon emissions for the given road freight task.
The Australian Transport Council has endorsed a map outlining a B-triple network based on the existing road train network. Transport ministers have also asked for work to be undertaken to identify potential B-triple network expansions.
Transport ministers are expected to finalise the relevant safety and infrastructure standards for PBS, and have a review panel in place to assess vehicles, by late 2007. All governments are also working with the NTC to draft an initial PBS network for the ATC to consider by the end of the year.
B-Triples will run on the defined national B-Triple network (Graphic courtesy of the National Transport Commission).