PBS vehicles - also known as ‘Smart Trucks' - improve efficiency by reducing costs associated with the transportation of goods, while delivering value to customers. From reducing road wear, greenhouse gas emissions, managing the heavy traffic on South Africa’s road infrastructure, and improving road safety, smart trucks offer more benefits as they are not constrained to prescriptive standards.
Smart Trucks continue to prove that they are more efficient compared to conventional trucks
The South African legislation limits truck and trailer design to a prescriptive standard, governed by mass and dimensions, thus constraining productivity and innovation. Adrian van Tonder, Senior Manager: Technical from Barloworld Transport notes that with smart trucks, the focus is on designing a truck and trailer combination based on how it performs on the road, its capability and not what it looks like, placing great emphasis on combination stability. In this case, performance-based standards supersede certain aspects of the prescriptive standards. Since the first pilot in 2007, South Africa continues to lead the pack in PBS vehicles outside of Australia and New Zealand.
Axels on the trailer as a focal point
Trailers for smart trucks are designed to achieve a low centre of gravity, and in certain instances, they will incorporate additional axels and tyres to improved stability and safety. “One of the key differentiators between a conventional truck and a smart truck is the axels on the trailer. The trailers could be slightly longer, but the width of the trailer and axles loads are subject to current legislation to protect the infrastructure,” says van Tonder.
The benefits of a smart truck outweigh that of a conventional truck
A smart truck’s length could be less than 22 metres long and conforms to South African standards from a height and width point of view, with extra axels. “When the abnormal bridge formula is applied, in instances where a standard side tipper can load 36 tonnes of product, a smart truck can load 50 tonnes,” says van Tonder. Results from the road-wear assessments on this combination show that per ton of payload moved, road-wear is about 50% less than a standard legal side tipper because of the extra axels and double wheel tyres on a smart truck. In essence, it carries 14 tonnes more but has 50% less road-wear per ton of payload moved.
In a side tipper application, seven smart trucks have the capacity of ten standard trucks. This leads to a reduced number of trucks on the road, reduced congestion as well as a reduced accident rate. In order to participate in the smart truck demonstration project, a transport company needs to obtain a Road Transport Management System (RTMS) certification, which is a voluntary compliance to all the different aspects of the road traffic act. Smart trucks go through several performance standard tests including, a low-speed 90°turn, high-speed lane-change, static rollover threshold, high-speed pulse steer, and various driveability standards to ensure that they keep to the highest standards of safety.
The proof is in the numbers
According to data presented by the CSIR, South Africa has about 300 PBS vehicles as well as approximately 300 000 standard commercial vehicles on the road. “At Barloworld Transport, we are proud to have grown our smart truck fleet to 80 vehicles this year, we have saved YTD 5 800 trips, while moving the same amount of payload and saved over 800 000 litres of diesel. For us, it has been a success story as this also means sustainable benefits to our customers,” says van Tonder.
Van Tonder notes that there is still a need to get more logistics and transport companies on-board. “As such, the first thing they need to do is obtain an RTMS certification as that will also assist in maintaining a sustainable business in this current market. Extensive research is required related to the smart truck demonstration project to determine how they could benefit from this initiative,” says van Tonder.
Some of the benefits realised from the smart truck demonstration project so far:
- Total trips saved per year – 74 874
- Total kilometres saved per year – 11 468 821
- Total fuel saved per year – R46.98 million
- Greenhouse gas emissions – 10 056 tons CO2
- Road-wear cost reduction – R24 500 per vehicle
- Crashes per million kilometres – 1.14 vs. 2.09 for baseline vehicles
South Africa has made its mark compared to other countries with regards to smart trucks. “Great progress has been made over the years, and as the only African country with PBS vehicles on the road, South Africa is about ten years ahead of Europe, America, Sweden and Germany,” says van Tonder. With so much progress made, South Africa ought to expand, grow, and thrive in more industries in addition to timber, mining, and fuel. “I am hoping that the government will continue to support the demonstration project and the industries’ request to get smart trucks (PBS) written into legislation. For South Africa to remain competitive in the global market, we need to embrace innovation at every opportunity we get,” concludes van Tonder.
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