Many of our readers will be aware of the Performance-based standards (PBS) pilot project – also known as the Smart Truck project – being conducted in South Africa which started in 2007 with two PBS vehicles operating in the forestry industry in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. During the past 13 years, the pilot project has slowly grown to include several industries with a range of goods, with around 600 trucks now operating throughout the nine provinces.
According to Dr Paul Nordengen, Director of Heavy Vehicle Transport Technology Africa, an evaluation report was submitted by the CSIR on behalf of the Smart Truck National Steering Committee to the Director-General at the National Department of Transport in September last year which included a summary of the measured benefits after 200 million truck km, along with recommendations on the way forward for the project.
“Benefits calculated at the time included an average fuel saving of 17%, a 23% reduction in truck kilometres, a 13% reduction in road wear impact and a 45% reduction in truck crashes per million km, compared to conventional baseline vehicles,” says Nordengen.
The DoT EXCO will review the report and is expected to decide whether a provision for PBS vehicles should be made in the South African National Road Traffic Act (NRTA).
According to Nordengen, the PBS concept is also being recognised in other countries in the Southern African region and a PBS pilot project in Namibia is gathering momentum with several PBS projects in the pipeline, the first of which are expected to start operating in the next month or two.
“Although Mozambique has not yet started a formal PBS project, they do not have a combination mass limit – only axle load limits – so a number of South African 22m (legal length) 72-tonne PBS side-tippers are operating on the corridor between various mines in South Africa and the Maputo harbour in Mozambique,” he says.
With such benefits accruing as spelt out in the report to the DoT EXCO and with all nine provinces having accepted the PBS concept, it would be remiss of the DoT not to include a provision in the NRTA.
The Smart Truck pilot project is a national research initiative that is trialling the introduction of high productivity road freight transport. This initiative is being led by stakeholders from the CSIR, government, industry and academia. These “Smart Trucks” are developed and regulated according to a Performance-Based Standards (PBS) framework, which has proven highly effective in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and parts of Europe. All vehicles participating in the pilot project are closely monitored for impact and performance. Through this project, South Africa has also demonstrated that it has the capacity to initiate and lead cutting-edge research, and this in turn positions the country favourably for further investments in innovative transport solutions.