Austroads Freight Taskforce (2014-2015)

Review of Performance Based Standards for Level 3 and Level 4 Vehicles

Austroads lvl34Objective

To review the PBS for Levels 3 & 4 vehicles and identify potential issues limiting the uptake of these High Productivity Vehicles. Provide recommendations for progressing the PBS Scheme Standards and Vehicle Assessment Rules that would result in increased uptake of Level 3 and 4 vehicles thereby increasing the use of safer and more productive vehicles.


The objective of this review was to identify potential issues that are limiting the uptake of the PBS (Performance Based Standards) Level 3 & 4 vehicles and provide recommendations for improving the standards to increase the use of safer and more productive freight vehicles.

There is strong incentive to increase the use of PBS vehicles. Austroads recently found that High Productivity Vehicles (HPVs) cause 63% fewer major accident incidents than their conventional counterparts and provide indirect community freight exposure benefits – less Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT), fewer trucks, reduced noise, emissions and accidents; accounting for a conservative estimate of $12.6 billion in direct and indirect economic benefits by 2030 (Austroads, 2014).

This review recommends retaining the existing national PBS framework and all performance standards, but argues that for some measures a re-calibration of test conditions and/or performance limits is required in order to meet the review objectives. The review also recommends using the PBS framework to facilitate access to Class 3 freight vehicles that fall outside the boundaries of the four PBS network access levels.

Preliminary research and consultation examined how the performance standards were originally set and confirmed that some standards, most notably Static Rollover Threshold (SRT), have strong relationships with heavy vehicle crash rates and limits are based on internationally accepted norms. However, most performance standards are set based on a benchmark of the Australian heavy vehicle fleet as it was at the turn of the century. At this time the maximum prescriptive Gross Combination Mass (GCM) for a Level 3 equivalent vehicle (Type I road train) was 82.5 tonnes and the maximum GCM for a Level 4 vehicle (Type II road train) was 146.0 tonnes. Alternative State and Territory based schemes have been necessary because the PBS requirements effectively capped productivity, thereby providing little incentive for the transport industry to invest in Level 3 and 4 PBS vehicles.

The terms of this review were to re-assess the performance of the existing fleet, identify standards that may be limiting the uptake of Level 3 and 4 PBS vehicles and make recommendations that will provide greater incentive for industry to participate in the PBS Scheme.

To benchmark the current fleet, an assessment of 600 different vehicle configurations was completed. Overall lengths ranged from 27.5 m to 60.0 m and GCMs from 79.5 tonnes to 164.0 tonnes. The assessment included ten vehicle types (four Level 3 and six Level 4), six payload types (intermodal, general freight, grain, livestock, mining and minerals and dangerous goods tankers), five suspensions and two tyres. While there are twenty standards, currently only sixteen require assessment. The fleet assessment found that most of the infrastructure and safety standards do not appear to limit PBS participation significantly. However, there was potential to improve PBS by fine-tuning some standards,

The full report can be found here.