Changing the game

In 1981, he went on a study tour of the United States and Canada that would reinforce that sentiment upon seeing Canadian B-trains in the flesh – so much so that Bob recommended a design trial back home in Australia. In 1981, the country’s first 17m B-double went into operation in Western Australia, with Victoria, South Australia and Queensland quickly following suit.

Fellow B-double advocate, Bob Woodward, played a vital role in helping the B-double advance from concept to general approval stage: Drawing on a wealth of hands-on industry experience, he was involved in the design of the very first Queensland B-double in 1985 – a 23m molasses tanker – and thus blazed the trail for the State granting full approval of the revolutionary concept by 1987. A gifted engineer just like his namesake, Bob went on to develop the concept of the tandem/ tri-axle B-double in 1988, and had significant input into the design of the 19m B-double we know today.

Interestingly, Pearson and Woodward only ever met by chance during these pioneering days, with one driving the road access agenda from his Melbourne base and the other spending most of his time in the design studio, drawing up innovative equipment for ‘early adopters’ like Finemore Holdings, which would later be absorbed by the Toll Group. Both acknowledge that industry personality Ron Finemore played a crucial role in making progress happen with his strong support for innovative trailer design. “In fact, Finemore’s late 1980s 23m car carrier – called the Stinger – was the first vehicle designed using a PBS-like approach,” says Bob Woodward, who is still active in the industry today developing high productivity equipment on behalf of Ron Finemore Transport.

“It was an exciting time and everyone was very busy, so we never really paused to reflect on the fact that we may actually be making history,” he adds. “I always admired Bob Pearson for his persistence in trying to break down regulatory barriers. He was a bit of an outlaw back then, which is probably why we became such good friends later on. We’re still talking a lot of heavy vehicle design and keep a keen eye on PBS.”

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