Much has improved with the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme since its shaky start in 2007. Road access has improved and the appointment of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) as an answerable authority in 2014 has simplified the approval process, resulting in an increase in the number of PBS-approved equipment on the roads.
However, tyre approvals are still presenting complications, explains Andrew Bloxham, Managing Director of Tyre and Tube Australia. “The current scheme does not have a cohesive system to provide a trailer manufacturer or end user with the data to make an informed choice on the tyre options available for use on their combination,” Andrew says. “There is no such thing as a PBS-approved tyre in the current system and yet that is what we get asked for every week from tyre dealers and transport companies.”
Currently, PBS assessors must be consulted for tyre specification on every new PBS combination up for approval to advise which makes and models will provide a safe performance for the task at hand. To make the judgement on the appropriateness of a particular tyre, the tyre companies provide test data to assessors, who then validate it based on their own simulations.
“Each specification relies on the individual judgement of the assessor, who might have data on a small number of tyres and not have capacity to test any more, so the end user’s choice is restricted to the models they already have,” Andrew says. “There is very little validity to only having a few brands approved when in fact there could be 30 or 40 options that meet the same safety rating.”
Another issue Andrew raises is that once a combination is approved with a particular tyre model, all replacements must also be that exact tyre. “What’s happening now is that the tyre manufacturers might discontinue particular models or upgrade them, or as happens there is no stock available at a particular time, so the approved tyre can no longer be obtained,” Andrew says. “The current system is problematic for everyone involved.”
A possible solution, he says, is to devise a nationally agreed-upon set of tyre approval categories that are audited and regulated by the NHVR. “Marcus Coleman at Tiger Spider has done the right thing here, forging ahead and creating his own system of tyre ranking categories from one to five,” Andrew says. “With a ranking system, industry could pool data for all the tyre options that fit each category, making a list of options for trailer manufacturers and end users to chose from.”
A transparent PBS category system would also remove the room for interpretation that currently exists, he adds, with assessors able to make judgement calls on tyre assessments and from data using different test methods and parameters. “It also removes confusion for road authorities,” Andrew says. “If a PBS-approved truck gets pulled over on the side of the road for an inspection, the current system requires them to check the tyres are the approved make and model for the combination. If they could instead check the tyres fit into the appropriate category, it would make things a lot simpler.”
Wanting to be at the forefront of what Andrew says are inevitable regulation changes, Tyre and Tube Australia has provided formalised test data on three of its tyres to Tiger Spider for classification into its categorised system. “We had three of our tyres assessed at the leading tyre testing facility in the US, the Smithers RAPRA facility in Ohio,” Andrew explains. “Our tyres underwent a uniform set of test parameters, as recently agreed upon by the Australian Tyre Industry Council (ATIC) on the Smithers flat bed testing system, and we provided the data to Tiger Spider, who corroborated it and classified the tyres.”
Two of the BOTO tyre patterns were assessed to reach the maximum level of safety and performance and achieved a Level 1 PBS ranking (TS001). They were the BOTO 11R22.5 BT212N and BOTO 11R22.5 BT370 HD Trailer tyres. “Therefore, these two patterns of BOTO tyres could be approved for fitment to the majority, if not all, PBS vehicles in Australia,” Andrew says.
A third tyre, the BOTO 11R22.5 BT168 All Position tyre achieved Level 3 PBS ranking (TS003). “This also allows multiple PBS applications and is not an indication of lesser quality – rather a function of being an application specific mixed surface tyre with differing design and operational requirements,” Andrew explains.
Although these tyres are classified under the Tiger Spider ranking system, they must still go through the current approval process if the vehicle has been approved by another assessor, as the system has not been ratified by the NHVR.
“Everyone has good intentions, and the NHVR is working towards solving the tyre complications. Now, it needs to be fast tracked to make PBS easier for the end user, the assessors and road authorities,” Andrew says. “The theory is there for a vastly improved PBS system. The major players in the tyre industry agree, having tabled the test method and parameters to ensure all reputable tyre brands provide accurate data. The tyre compatibility to PBS categorisation parameters just need to be agreed on and implemented. In the meantime, we have high quality options ready for use today.”