The development and evaluation of a performance-based standards approach for regulating the use of heavy vehicles in South Africa.
The regulation of the use of vehicles on the road network is aimed at ensuring acceptable safety and recovery of road maintenance costs, as well as minimising congestion, road wear, excessive noise and air pollution. The traditional approach of regulating heavy vehicles is prescriptive, i.e. enforcing regulations that primarily limit the mass and dimensions of these vehicles. This approach is generally favoured because such regulations are easy to understand and enforce. However, an underlying disadvantage is that the prescriptive approach does not always adequately safeguard the dynamic performance of heavy vehicles while travelling on the road. Principle-based and performance-based standards are primarily aimed at specifying desired outcomes, rather than how these outcomes should be achieved. Under a performance-based standards (PBS) approach, performance measures (such as low-speed swept path, rearward amplification, load transfer ratio and high-speed offtracking) are utilised to specify the performance required from vehicles. Although more complex to regulate, a PBS approach has a number of potential benefits such as: (a) improved vehicle safety, (b) improved productivity, (c) reduced infrastructure wear and emissions, (d) a more optimal use of the existing road network, and (e) the encouragement of innovation in vehicle design. The aim of this research was to apply, refine and demonstrate an alternative approach to the design and operation of heavy vehicles in South Africa with improved outcomes in terms of road transport productivity, vehicle safety performance, emissions, congestion and preservation of road infrastructure. The research included the development and implementation of a PBS demonstration project in South Africa and the monitoring and evaluation of PBS demonstration vehicles operating in the forestry industry in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Evaluation focused on improvements in productivity (fuel efficiency and trip reduction) and load control with reference to initial results regarding road wear and safety performance. Results show a significant improvement in payload control and fuel efficiency of the PBS vehicles compared with the baseline vehicles. This also resulted in a reduction in CO2 emissions per ton.km. Road wear assessments of PBS and baseline vehicles showed that in some cases a reduction in road wear of up to 200% per ton of payload can be achieved through the use of PBS vehicles. Safety assessment results of four PBS vehicle designs showed various shortcomings of prescriptive baseline vehicles in terms of the performance standards.
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