Road safety measures can be difficult to enforce, because truck drivers and fleet owners often feel like they’re being put on the defensive. As for vehicle manufacturers and truck parts suppliers, it can seem like excess expenditure. It’s not that they don’t care about truck safety and saving lives. It’s that many safety policies and regulations are developed in a vacuum.
Ordinarily, they’ll be designed through a bureaucratic process that is often far removed from the experience of actual drivers and fleet managers. These policies are often theoretical, based on conceptual observations rather than road testing. This approach not only alienates truck industry experts, it also results in recommendations that don’t seem helpful, giving truckers even less incentive to implement them.
Unfortunately, the more truckers flout rules, the tighter regulatory bodies become in their penalties. Harsher consequences in turn make drivers and owners feel victimised and look for ways to get round the rules. It becomes an endless cycle, and in the process, drivers and passengers risk serious injury and even death.
Solving the problem
One effective solution is to get the industry itself involved. Owners and drivers know better than anyone what is required to be safe on the roads. That’s the thinking behind the Performance Based Standards Scheme (PBS). It was launched in October 2007 and has become globally acclaimed for its effect on the Australian heavy vehicle industry.
The PBS puts trucks and buses through stringent criteria that includes four infrastructure requirements and sixteen safety protocols. Initially, PBS regulations were applied to vehicles that were currently on the roads, but soon manufacturers got on board. They began to produce trucks and buses that were PBS compliant right from the showroom, so owners and fleet managers didn’t need to effect any safety adjustments.
This May, a joint report was released by the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA) and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR). The aim of the report, according to NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto, was to show the results that PBS has achieved over the past decade. Mr. Petroccitto describes the programme as a ‘world leader that makes Australians proud’, which is big praise. Fortunately, PBS has the stats to back this claim.
The data says it all
Since its implementation, manufacturers of 60 trailer brands and 22 truck brands have joined the venture, producing PBS-friendly vehicles. Many people assume that trucks and heavy vehicles are the lead cause of road carnage. However, thanks to PBS, heavy vehicles are now on record has having 46% fewer accidents than other vehicles. In terms of mileage, there has been a saving of 320 million kilometres covered by trucks between 2014 and 2017.
Truck and dog vehicles make up 55% of all PBS-approved vehicles on the road at the moment. Of the new trucks on the road, 17% come pre-approved from their manufacturers’ depots, which makes life easier for buyers, managers, and owners, since they don’t need additional safety accessories. An average fleet of trucks and buses is 12.2 years old, while the median PBS age-set is 3.6 years.
Heavy vehicle operators are unfairly labelled as luddite, thanks to media portrayals. Dr. Peter Hart, the chairman of ARTSA, says the success of PBS proves the industry is eager and willing to embrace technology, just as long as it’s practical, applicable, and functional. He confirms that at the moment, one in six Australian trucks is PBS-approved.
Getting the industry involved
Industry members are happy to comply because they played a big part in designing the rules, and selected pointers that really work and make an actual difference in daily road use. He calls it ‘a good example of regulators setting parameters and letting the industry do the rest.’ According to Dr. Hart, it’s clear that while PBS implementation is expensive, it’s a good business decision.
PBS creates safer roads for drivers and passengers, and enhances heavy vehicle performance, which saves truckers money and time, shoring up their profits. It’s kinder on the environment, cutting down wasted resources and minimising emissions and carbon footprints. It also brings the community together by creating commonality for truckers and regulators.
By bringing truck manufacturers into the process, it goes full circle, involving all the stakeholders and showing them they have a role to play and some skin in the safety game. And in the long run, safe roads benefit the entire trucking chain, from exporters and producers to the end customer at your local school or grocery store.