In 2014, CEO of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), Sal Petroccitto, said 'continuous improvement and industry collaboration' were some of the keys needed to strengthening Australia's high productivity vehicle scheme.
Almost three years on, just how far has the transport industry come? Prime Mover recently caught up with Sal to find out.
Q: Where do you see the PBS scheme as it is? Is it fair to say it has reached adolescence now?
A: PBS has been ‘growing up’ at a rate significantly higher than predicted and it is likely that the scheme will continue to grow at a rate of at least 20 per cent per year, so it’ll reach adulthood very quickly. It will be exciting to see just how it will push the boundaries of vehicle innovation and promote greater productivity without jeopardising safety.
Q: You have been on the road a lot in 2015-16. What was the main feedback you have received regarding PBS, and which issues turned out to be most common around the topic?
A: That’s right, it’s been a busy year for all us here at the NHVR. What I’ve learned on the road is that PBS vehicles do indeed deliver more productivity and safety through innovative vehicle design – meaning fewer trucks on the road and overall safer vehicles to transport more than two billion tonnes of freight around Australia each year. But I also realised that we need to continue working with councils to improve their understanding of PBS vehicles and the vital freight role they can play for local economies. The PBS demonstration day we hosted in Bundaberg in August was a great first step in the right direction.
Q: In our first National Fleet Productivity Report, published in December 2015, we talked about legacy issues and where the NHVR went wrong in the past. Let’s approach it from a different side now: What went right since we last spoke?
A: It’s fair to say the positive development of the organisation and the PBS scheme in general has continued. Of course, enhancing safety and productivity are still the core strategic objectives that shape the work we do across the NHVR; but what we have become even more aware of this year is that both are inextricably linked. By enabling network access to higher productivity vehicles, we are reducing the number of heavy vehicles on the road, and ensuring newer vehicles with the best drivers are moving greater volumes of freight. This message is apparent to industry and we enjoy its support and welcome its participation in key initiatives the NHVR is leading, like the development of national notices, the online permit Customer Portal, the development of industry Codes of Practice and the work we are doing on Chain of Responsibility awareness.
Q: Which role does the Industry Reference Forum (IRF) play in that context?
A: The establishment of the IRF really demonstrates the close working relationship we have established with industry. Membership of this group is largely comprised of industry associations that are already established and active in advocating for their members, meaning the IRF must be seen as our key advisory body, providing both myself and all senior staff with direct feedback. I think the IRF will take on an even more active role in driving the longer-term, strategic agenda for regulatory reform of Australia’s heavy vehicle industry in the year to come.
Q: How healthy is your relationship with the Federal Government?
A: I think the strength of the relationship between the NHVR, industry and our partners in Government was best highlighted when Minister Darren Chester launched our Setting the Agenda document with us this year in Cairns. It outlines the NHVR’s commitment to safety in the heavy vehicle space over a five-year period and outlines a National Heavy Vehicle Safety Strategy, a National Heavy Vehicle Compliance and Assurance Strategy and National Heavy Vehicle Productivity Strategy. The support we experienced at the launch should be taken as a sign that we’re all on board to achieving the same goal – making a real difference to the heavy vehicle industry and the Australian community in enabling the safe and efficient movement of freight.
Q: In February, you will have spent 1,000 days in the top role at the NHVR. What have you learned since taking on the job?
A: What I have come to understand in my time as CEO is building passion and understanding for the work we do and the people we serve is one of the keys to success. As such, the key message – as well as my personal goal for 2017 – must be that we are always ready to work with industry and Government in ensuring that we serve the needs of industry and the community. The NHVR continues to mature as an organisation and work towards the safety and productivity outcomes that flow from the national reform we were tasked with by the Commonwealth Government and participating jurisdictions.