When Bob Edwards signed on as a heavy vehicle mechanic apprentice in 1962, he had no idea how influential his efforts would be in driving better standards for the South Australian road transport industry in the decades to follow.
After a 14-year stint of maintaining heavy vehicles and trailing equipment, Bob moved on to study engineering. With practical experience under his belt as well as an educated perspective on all things trucks and trailers, Bob served with the South Australian Transport Department, which went through a number of name changes over the years. His focus on heavy vehicle modifications and road traffic regulations for the state government informed the next step of his career.
“I started my own consultancy in 1988 – Transport and Engineering Management – responding to the inevitable progression of accreditation systems and safety standards prior to the take-up of the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) high-productivity scheme,” he says – explaining that it has only been in the past decade that better safety standards for heavy vehicles and semi-trailers have been streamlined and organised. “In terms of administration, there is more consistency throughout the country for PBS, which is why I became a PBS certifier.”
Bob has seen significant industry innovation since the 1960s. “Over the years, road transport equipment has been designed to cart more. By increasing payload capacity, trailer combinations have become bigger and more ambitious, growing in size from four-, five-, and six-axle dogs. Efficiency and safety go hand-in-hand, which is why there has always been an industry push to maintain better safety standards,” he says ¬ – adding that he admires Dr Peter Hart of the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association for his persistent efforts. “Peter works hard on providing technical solutions to engineering challenges that affect the industry as a whole.”
Looking to the future, Bob is excited about changes in electronics, specifically telematics and the tracking of prime movers and semi-trailers. “In some cases today, there are equipment manufacturers that can flag an issue before a fleet operator is even aware. The road transport industry has taken some giant steps forward, and I am privileged to be a part of it.”
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers, Industry Icons, is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.