Performance Based Standards (PBS) and Smart Trucks in Africa

Performance Based Standards or 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.

PBS and Road Regulations

Current road regulations are quite prescriptive about vehicle appearance and sizing, including height, width and length. PBS, by contrast, seeks to design heavy-duty vehicles on how they are able to perform at certain levels. Taking that into account, truck and trailers need to pass a set of 16 safety related performance tests, which are made up of a combination of low-speed and high-speed manoeuvres, for example emergency lane changes, turning radius, acceleration and braking.

Regulatory Levels of Performance Based Standards

There are four levels within the PBS regulations, with each level having slightly different performance requirements and subsequent route restrictions.

Level 1 vehicles are allowed to travel on all routes. Vehicles designed under Level 1 can typically achieve an additional 30% payload. This payload increase translates to a reduction of total vehicles, road damage, CO2 emissions and lower overall running costs.

Level 2 (and above) require a detailed route analysis and vehicles are restricted to only drive on those designated routes. Level 2 vehicles can typically achieve 60 % increase in payload.

Levels 3 and 4 vehicles are typically only used on private or very remote roads such as in mines or on large agricultural estates. The payload increase for these vehicles when compared to their standard counterparts is almost limitless. Designs have been introduced with over 140 ton payload, a 280 % increase.

The Smart Truck Pilot Project

Currently in 2020, PBS vehicles remain part of the Smart Truck Pilot Project and by law are required to be part of the RTMS (Road Transport Management System). RTMS is a self-regulation initiative in South Africa promoting safety and sustainability within the transport industry. RTMS requires regulatory compliance over and above those rules set by the Department of Transport.

This includes specific standards relating to:

  • Overloading
  • Driver training
  • Vehicle maintenance and
  • Speeding.

The positive outcome of this process will be that PBS vehicles (Link to road Train article) not only reduce the total number of trucks on the road, but will replace them with safer, better operated and more strictly-regulated options.

PBS within Unitrans Africa

Unitrans have over 50 PBS-registered vehicles in their fleet in the road, petroleum, mining and agricultural sectors. The PBS philosophy of designing the safest and most payload-efficient vehicles is carried through to all their projects, including those which do not even fall under the official Smart Truck Project. Unitrans Africa have the in-house PBS expertise and analysis software, and are actively seeking to implement these efficient Smart Trucks at all of their operations throughout Africa.

In addition, Unitrans Africa works closely with suppliers and trailer builders to ensure that the best possible transport solution for each application is specified.

The future of PBS

The significant efficiency improvements that PBS vehicles have shown in South Africa has led to neighbouring countries joining the Smart Truck Pilot Project. Namibia and eSwatini are expanding their inclusion of PBS vehicles. Botswana may also present an opportunity in the near future to implement smart trucks. Unitrans Africa’s strategic footprint in each of these countries and extensive PBS experience means that they are optimally suited to partner with existing and potential customers, helping them towards higher safety and efficiency in their operations.

Unitrans Africa are also using Performance Based Standards as a platform for innovation. They are testing the use of alternative fuels, including Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Ethanol and electric hybrid powertrains, as well as the incorporation of various levels of autonomy. The popularity of drones has also made an impact in this area, with the implementation of processes to assess the PBS vehicle’s operational performance statistics that fall outside of the Smart Truck Project. This data includes loading and offloading efficiencies, plus insights into driver performance and training.

The Performance Based Standards System and Smart Trucks are an integral part of Unitrans Africa’s vision towards innovation, excellence and safety.  This technology can be incorporated in virtually all of their markets and they will continue to invest heavily in it – constantly looking forward to new opportunities. PBS forms part of Unitrans Africa’s overall SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment and Quality) and Performance strategies. The company is ISO-certified, complying with all the relevant safety, quality, health and environmental standards and is additionally registered on the RTMS.

Unitrans Africa is a leader in the fuel transportation industry in Africa with a strong footprint in countries like Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, eSwatini and Mozambique. Customers can be assured that Unitrans Africa strives to create lean bespoke logistics innovation solutions for all stakeholders, with a keen focus on safety and care for the environment, by using the PBS system in fuel transport (Link to fuel & energy page) operations.

Find out more about Unitrans Africa’s commitment to PBS and Smart Trucks by contacting them via email.