15 October 2019

Road access for multi-trailer double combinations essential for freight task

New A-doubles and B-triples with broader PBS road access ratings are leading the way to improving road freight capacity, but are we moving fast enough?

With road freight demand predicted to double by 2030, the unveiling of a 42 metre long B-triple at the National Heavy Vehicles Regulator (NHVR) performance based standards (PBS) demonstration event in Portland on 21 March 2019 attracted a lot of interest. The gross combination mass of 82.5 tonnes vehicle is approved for access to PBS Level 3 roads, and potentially beyond.

Recently Trailer reported on industry uptake of an A-double with an updated converter dolly. No longer purely a remote area option, more than 150 of these combinations with up to 85 tonnes of GCM have been travelling the route between Toowoomba and the Port of Brisbane and are estimated to have reduced truck traffic on the route by some 200 trucks.


But the brake on achieving greater productivity gains, fuel cost savings and reduced congestion and emissions is the approval process. Gary Mahon, CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA), wants to see greater latitude in allowable combinations, longer approval permit terms and faster action on coordinating road networks.

Mahon supports the PBS scheme and standards that improve safety and productivity by reducing the number of passes required to meet road freight demands.

“Why wouldn’t you want that technology?” he says. “Better use of the network within existing dimensions leads to greater productivity. Generally speaking you need an integrated classification system but you also need to maintain hybrid flexibility because within the different states there are relative differences in vehicle types that are most appropriate to the conditions.

“Where we really need growth in productivity based standards is in combinations of multi-trailer doubles. What productivity gains could be achieved by moving up a class from 19 to 20 metres?”

Business-standard responses needed

He also wants to see the PBS road access process streamlined to enable pre-approvals of innovative configurations to encourage operators to invest in new equipment and combinations. “The term of some permits is as little as six or 12 months,” he says.

Classification and permits for most states (excluding Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and one vehicle class in Queensland) are administered by the National Heavy Vehicles Regulator (NHVR) and road networks are primarily controlled by state and local governments through bureaucratic processes.

Mahon feels road network controllers need to think in business terms and that calls for a more streamlined, integrated approach to approvals and access. Issuing permits to approved high capacity vehicles only partly meets industry needs; networks of matching road systems also have to be established.

“Everything in this industry is time sensitive,” he says. “We need to be able to [introduce an innovation] in six months and we need a network of high productivity routes. The industry is lobbying for that.”

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