The truck transport industry the world over is driven by the need to constantly improve payload efficiency while simultaneously reducing fuel consumption and harmful exhaust emissions, improving its road safety record and limiting its impact on road surfaces.

MAN truck for Sappi in KZN

New smart truck to be operated by Timber Logistics, hauling timber for Sappi in southern KwaZulu-Natal.

 

In South Africa, leading fleets, particularly in the timber, sugar and coal industries, are subscribing to RTMS (Road Transport Management System), an industry-led self-regulation programme designed to ensure road safety, load optimisation and driver/vehicle fitness. The big incentive behind RTMS accreditation is the granting by the Department of Transport of ‘Smart Truck’ permits which allow operators to run abnormal-length/load vehicles on public roads, effectively boosting their bottom-line profitability.

One such operation is Timber Logistics Services (TLS) which recently took ownership of 15 new MAN Smart Trucks to replace its existing Smart Truck fleet servicing the Sappi Forests contract running raw timber from pine plantations in the Umkomaas region of Kwazulu-Natal to its Saiccor mill on the South Coast.

These specialised, abnormal-load logging vehicles have been introduced following extensive technical and infield trials to ensure safety according to Performance-based Standards (PBS) criteria.

Technical drawings of the 25.7 metre-long Smart Truck, combining the 480-horsepower MAN TGS 33.480BB with an Afrit-designed five-axle drawbar trailer, were sent to Australian company MSD, which classified the combination as being ‘Level 2 Road-Class Access’, as per the PBS performance requirements.

According to Brian Hunt, Managing Director of Timber Logistics Services, “Our operation follows a three-year vehicle replacement cycle and has a longstanding relationship with MAN. Reducing total cost of ownership is a primary driver when it comes to fleet renewal, as is enhanced productivity. Six months ago, a MAN TGS 33.480BB test unit was put to work in our operation while its PBS approval process was underway. The fuel consumption figures it delivered outperformed a comparable vehicle in our fleet by 4-5 litres/100 km, which translates into a R3 million per annum saving in the Smart Truck fleet.”

The deployment of the new MAN Smart Trucks is the result of a close and ongoing working partnership between TLS, MAN, Afrit and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport (DoT) to ensure sustained compliance with Smart Truck performance standards, as well as national road and occupational health and safety regulations.

“The KZN DoT is a key player in helping us pioneer new frontiers in timber transport,” adds Hunt. “Between 50 and 60 Smart Truck loads are monitored by the DoT every month, as are our routes. This auditing process is done in a spirit of collaboration and transparency. It is clear that government is keen to foster the development of truck technologies that can help meet its objectives to promote international competitiveness, carbon emissions control and road safety.”

Governed by Sappi’s stringent service-level agreements, Timber Logistics Services operates on a 90% uptime principle, demanding optimum reliability from its vehicles.

“Forestry is a 24/7/365 business and having a vehicle that is able to get to loading points in plantations, on forestry roads in inclement weather is crucial to meeting our contractual obligations,” says Hunt. “The MAN TGS 33.480 is able to go where no other competitor model can without getting stuck, making it a clear winner for our application where muddy off-road work is an everyday challenge. Furthermore, our new Afrit Smart Truck trailers run on air suspension with an under-slung drawbar, making them more stable on the road with less vibration, helping reduce our maintenance costs and limiting road pavement damage.”

Powered by the MAN D26 Common-rail engine (480 hp/353 kw@1700-1900 rpm and 2300 Nm @1000-1400 rpm) with a MAN TipMatic automated gearbox and ZF Intarder, the TGS 33.480BB has a permissible GCM (gross combination mass) of 90 000 kg and carries a maximum 48 000 kg payload in the Smart Truck configuration.

The 15 MAN Smart Trucks are backed by a four-year/600 000 km MAN extended warranty, a full OEM maintenance contract and a guaranteed buy-back clause after three years.

With each new Smart Truck carrying eight more tons of timber per load, the number of TLS trucks on the road will be reduced by 20%, helping ease congestion and road pavement damage while improving employment opportunities for drivers.

Robin Pretorius, Transport Development Manager, Sappi Forests, explains: “Smart Truck fleets use more drivers than conventional operations because shifts are eight hours long rather than the typical 12-hour forestry shift.

Drivers undergo intensive training and are closely monitored to ensure they are healthy and free of fatigue before they get behind the wheel of a Smart Truck. In fact, the Smart Truck accident rate is significantly lower than normal trucks at 0.2 accidents per one-million hours compared to 3.2 accidents per million service hours in regular timber combinations.”

Published in June 2012



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