Zabalaza Hauliers has two new ‘3rd generation’ PBS vehicles on the road, transporting timber for NCT. These vehicles have been developed and designed by NCT and Zabalaza Hauliers, working closely with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport.

nct truck
One of Zabalaza Hauliers’ ‘3rd generation’ PBS vehicles, just 23.1m long and capable of carrying a payload of 49-50 tons of timber.
nct graph


The key difference between these vehicles and previous generation PBS vehicles developed for use in South Africa is that they are a little shorter, with an overall length of just 23.1m. Thus they are more compact which makes them more versatile and able to travel on more routes than the longer vehicles.

Crucially, however, these vehicles carry a similar payload of 49-50 tons vs a standard timber truck payload of 38-39 tons. This translates into a saving to the timber grower of 10%-15% of R/Ton transport rate compared to a standard timber truck.

These vehicles are based on a 6×4 design with a single axle in front and a five-axle drawbar trailer, manufactured by Afrit. The trucks are Mercedes Benz Actros 3350s.

NCT’s Commercial Manager, James van Zyl, said that the vehicles are the culmination of extensive research and development, including comprehensive simulation exercises which were performed in Australia, where the PBS concept originates.

The timber industry has been at the forefront of the development of PBS vehicles in South Africa, with Sappi and Mondi the pioneers who put the first PBS vehicles on the road.

James said that NCT adopted a cautious approach to see how the first generation PBS vehicles were accepted before developing their own PBS trucks, which are currently hauling timber from the KZN midlands area to NCT Durban Woodchips and Bay Fibre and Shincel in Richards Bay.

Richard Borain of Zabalaza Hauliers and the trailer manufacturer did the technical design of the PBS vehicles. The development team also worked closely with KZN DoT’s Technical Manager, Shane Millward, and Senior Manager Freight Transport, Chris Stretch.

Strict conditions for operation of PBS vehicles are required in terms of the DoT permit. The transport operator must be RTMS accredited, which means the company adheres to high standards of safety, driver training and wellness, vehicle maintenance and record keeping, etc. The vehicle can only be operated on approved roads, ranging from district roads to national highways, and the transport operator must report to the DoT monthly on routes and performance.

“The DoT wants to see a reduction in the number of vehicles on the roads, so they are supportive of the PBS vehicles,” said Richard Borain of Zabalaza Hauliers. Zabalaza currently has 20 trucks on the road, two of which are PBS vehicles. The company transports timber for NCT and private farmers, and does ad hoc work for Sappi. Zabalaza is also hauling sugarcane.

Richard said that only their most experienced and skilled drivers who have received advanced driver training, are assigned to the PBS vehicles. The vehicles are equipped with on-board weighing and satellite tracking systems.

“The PBS vehicles have been on the road for over a month now, and they are performing very well,” commented Richard.

NCT currently moves around 800 000 tons of timber a year, and James says they are keen to increase the number of PBS vehicles hauling their timber because of the benefits to the growers, to the other road users and to the environment.

“The cost of transport has been steadily increasing, while the price of timber has stayed the same, so this has been eroding the farmers’ margins,” said James. “The PBS vehicles represent a 10% to 15% reduction in the Rand cost per ton of timber transported, which slows down that erosion and puts more money back into the farmers’ pockets.”

Considering the fact that the PBS vehicles carry a 24% bigger payload than standard timber trucks, their use reduces the number of timber truck trips on our country’s roads – a win-win for farmers, for the environment, and for other road users.

Following their successful introduction by the timber industry, other sectors are now also introducing PBS vehicles into their operations in order to reap the benefits.

What are PBS vehicles?
PBS refers to ‘Performance-Based System’. The traditional approach to heavy truck and trailer design is that prescriptive legislation sets mass (GCM <56 tons) and dimensional limitations (max length 22 metres). PBS vehicles are evaluated against a defined set of standards to ensure road safety and infrastructure protection, thereby making it possible to increase the payload without increasing the impacts on the roads, infrastructure and other road users. The ultimate objective is to improve payload efficiency.

Published in August 2013



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