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Call for urgent overhaul of PBS permit system as backlog spikes

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Hundreds of PBS heavy vehicles are parked up, sitting idle, instead of working to keep Australia moving – all because of behind-the-scenes bureaucratic bungling, says a peak trucking body.

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) chief executive Todd Hacking says the access permit system for Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme vehicles needs an immediate and urgent overhaul.

“It is unfathomable, that a fleet operator will invest in the PBS system, spending tens of thousands of dollars to make their million-dollar combination safer and more productive, only to see it penalised for 50, 100, even 150 days, due to bureaucratic dithering,” Hacking said.

“Never has it been so important to have trucks moving.  To have them sit idle due to bureaucracy is a national disgrace.

“I challenge every state and local government with outstanding applications to clear the backlog immediately.”

Under the current Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), a road manager (normally within state or local government) is given 28 days to decide on a PBS access permit application.

“HVIA is advised that there are currently hundreds of PBS vehicles parked up whilst this legislated timeframe of 28 days is routinely and systematically not met by Road Managers,” Hacking added.

“In addition to this operational urgency under the current law, the whole system needs a complete overhaul.

“The PBS scheme is intended to facilitate access rather than be a barrier to access.”

HVNL access provisions are currently under review by the National Transport Commission (NTC).  HVIA has called for a system where:

1. NHVR grants approvals based on precedent whenever applicable.
2. All permit approvals are published and
3. An appeals mechanism for any refused application,
4. Or conversely, where road managers have 28 days to appeal the NHVR’s decision.
5. A built-in statutory approval for the permit, if the 28-day timeframe lapses.
6. Road managers can use third-party approved persons to approve access applications.
7. A call-in power for the NHVR to assess and approve low risk applications.
8. An urgent commitment from all jurisdictions to share bridge rating assessment data with a view of an agreed, national, consistent, transparent approach to access.
9. Automatic approval for applications that meet the Tier 1 or Tier 2 bridge formulae.

“Everybody understands the importance of an efficient, productive, safe freight system,” Hacking said.

“Australia’s heavy vehicle industry has proven itself during the pandemic to be the lifeblood of the economy.

“Access permits are a key component of the system, but the system is broken; it is antiquated, lacks transparency and is holding the nation’s freight back.”

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