PBS: The road to productivity

From the July 2016 issue.

Australia’s openness to the idea of high productivity vehicle design has gained it international attention, but a complex approval process and on-going political quarrel have long held it back. Where is it standing now?

It’s safe to say George R.R. Martin did not have high productivity vehicle design in mind when he penned the first sentence of A Game of Thrones in 1991, starting the best-selling novel with a simple, “we should start back.”

Yet, the ominous opening could be a perfect fit to tell the twisted tale of Australia’s world-renowned Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme – at least if you listen closely to those at the coalface.

“Talking about PBS is a lot like explaining Game of Thrones’ intricate storyline to someone who has never heard anything about it,” says Laszlo ‘Les’ Bruzsa, a long-time PBS advocate who is now serving as Chief Engineer at the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) in the Australian city of Brisbane. “There are a lot of forces at work behind the scenes that all follow a slightly different agenda, and the dynamic between them is constantly changing.”

In the book, the short opening line is meant to foreshadow an unknown threat lingering in the descending darkness, urging the protagonist’s hunting party to pause and reassess where they are headed. In real life Australia, it may represent the course PBS-inspired heavy vehicle design has taken since it was first conceived more than a decade ago, with many a lesson learned by forging boldly ahead and then taking a step back to re-evaluate the course.

“Even today, the level of understanding and support for this initiative fluctuates across the country,” says Bruzsa, who has endured many a debate about PBS since 2007. He argues that the pop culture phenomenon and Australia’s PBS scheme are surprisingly alike – both driven by the same hope for a happy ending and both held back by inscrutable complexity. “When we talk PBS, there is still a lot of misinformation out there as to who is responsible for what and who is pulling which string, so creating more transparency is our most important objective as a governing body.”

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