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Post: SA’s PBS smart trucks are spinning their wheels

trucks

SA’s PBS smart trucks are spinning their wheels

“All hell will break loose if there are no performance-based standards (PBS) trucks on the roads”, Forestry South Africa’s (FSA’s) director of operations Francois Oberholzer warned the 300 delegates attending Focus on Forestry.

By Joy Crane

PBS is the foundation of an alternative regulatory system for heavy vehicles in South Africa. First launched in 2007, the PBS system uses a modified version of the Australian road-train regulations, where heavy vehicles are designed on how they perform against a set of safety standards rather than how they look.

Oberholzer delivered his presentation on PBS trucks in South Africa at Focus on Forestry on 8 November. At the time, he was optimistic that the national transport officials would recognise the successes of the PBS pilot project and give it the go-ahead on 10 November.

Disappointingly, the decision was postponed. “It is anticipated that the future of the PBS approach will be discussed by the Committee of Transport Officials (COTO) and the Minister and Members of the Executive Council (MINMEC) in the first quarter of 2024. After that, we will develop either an implementation or exit strategy”, Oberholzer wrote in the October – December 2023 issue of FSA’s Forestry In Focus magazine.

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THE STARTING LINE
As an industry, overloading has been an issue for many years. Andrew Crickmay of Crickmay & Associates and Paul Nordengen of the Council for Scientific Research (CSIR) discussed the idea of load accreditation with Oberholzer while he was with Forestry Engineering South Africa (FESA).

With the support of several companies and the Department of Trade and Industry, the Load Accreditation Programme was born in 2004. It became the RTMS self-regulation scheme, which is nationally accepted. “We have seen dramatic drops in overloading from 20% to 1% with the implementation of the programme”, Oberholzer commented.

The RTMS was later formalised as the South African National Standard, SANS 1395. RTMS is an industry-led, initially government-supported, voluntary self-regulation scheme thatencourages timber owners, sawmillers, and transport operators. It is a vehicle management system demonstrating compliance with the Road Traffic Regulations. It contributes to preserving road infrastructure, improving road safety and increasing productivity.

Oberholzer was instrumental in convincing the forestry industry, scientists and the National Department of Transport (NDoT) to consider a performance-based standards (PBS) approach to heavy vehicle design and operations.

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Francois Oberholzer

PBS PILOT PROJECT
The National Road Traffic Act is prescriptive regarding vehicle dimensions, prescribing a maximum combination of 22 metres long, 2.6 metres wide and 4.3 metres high. The PBS concept is outcomes-based, and vehicles conform to a series of design criteria, including rollover stability, startability, acceleration, gradability and deceleration performances, low-speed off-tracking, and impact on infrastructure.

A committee was established in 2004, and after developing the PBS strategy and obtaining support from the Minister of Transport, a pilot project was launched in the forestry industry. Sappi rolled out the first two PBS vehicles at the end of 2007.

RTMS accreditation is a pre-requisite for any transport operator wishing to operate a PBS vehicle in the pilot project. It ensures a minimum acceptable level of professionalism regarding vehicle loading, speed control, vehicle fitness, driver hours, driver wellness and driver competency. Without RTMS, there would be no PBS.

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PBS TRUCKS TICK BOXES
“The number of vehicles participating in the PBS project grew relatively slowly. When a PBS Pilot Project Evaluation Report was submitted to the National Department of Transport in October 2020, only 320 PBS vehicles were in operation. Just over 195 million km had been covered by PBS vehicles”, Oberholzer noted.

Today, about 1,200 PBS trucks operate with an asset value of about R4.5 billion. Most vehicles work in the forestry, coal, mining, beverages and fuel industries.

“At a time when timber volumes on rail have plummeted from 3.5 million tons in 2005 to under one million tons, the PBS initiative has significantly reduced the impact on the forestry industry”. Oberholzer said that over 250 PBS vehicles operate in forestry, saving the industry approximately R14 million monthly.

“Due to the increased payload capacity, there has been a 26% reduction in trips, reducing traffic congestion. There is also a 20% reduction in carbon emissions, which translates to a saving of approximately 12,000 tons of carbon annually in the forestry industry.

“Even though PBS vehicles have a higher payload capacity, more axles and innovative vehicle designs result in a 12% reduction in road damage per tonne moved. PBS vehicles are also much safer than conventional vehicles, with a 44% reduction in crashes compared to conventional trucks”.

“PBS trucks save our economy hundreds of millions of rands and have reduced accident rates, making it something I am immensely proud to have been a part of”. The impact of the smart truck pilot project 2007 – 2020.

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WAITING SINCE 2020
Oberholzer said the CSIR submitted an evaluation report to the National Department of Transport (NDoT) in October 2020 and presented an overview of the report to the NDoT ExCo in March 2021.

“FSA has promoted PBS at every level of government and other structures over the last three years. It included a direct plea to the State President and the Minister of Transport, submissions to Operation Vulindlela and the National Logistics Crisis Committee, discussions with the Provincial MECs, and lobbying with other stakeholders”. Deliverable 8 of Focus Area 6 of the Forestry Sector Masterplan lists “integration of PBS into National Transport Framework” as a deliverable for creating an enabling environment for the forestry sector. It was anticipated that the COTO and the MINMEC would review and decide on the future of the PBS approach in South Africa by the end of 2021.

Two years later, no decision has been made. The game-changing smart trucks are spinning their wheels at a bureaucratic T-junction.

Deliverable 8 of Focus Area 6 of the Forestry Sector Masterplan lists “integration of PBS into National Transport Framework” as a deliverable for creating an enabling environment for the forestry sector.

Source: Woodbiz Magazine – November/December 2023
(Pages 3 – 5)

 

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