HVTT: Making the transport industry future-proof

Dedicated to creativity, innovation and design in the trucking world, HVTT has become a global forum to exchange ideas that will make the commercial road transport industry more efficient, sustainable, and profitable. It is not so much about publicity, or showing off what technology can do, but about joining the global debate on how to make the transport industry future-proof.

As David Cebon, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Research and Director of the Cambridge Vehicle Dynamics Consortium, has it, “the primary goal of every HVTT symposium is to bring together the various disciplines of road transport to broaden knowledge and perspective.”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2012, the conference was held just outside the Swedish city of Stockholm. A ten-minute drive north of the city centre, on the western shore of the Brunnsviken Inlet and a stone’s throw away from Royal Haga Park, more than 130 international delegates held a three-day session that included 66 in-depth presentations on heavy vehicle technology.

“Sweden is the ideal place to hold the conference,” said Paul Nordengen, President of the International Forum for Road Transport Technology, which organised the meeting. “The country has a pioneering role in finding creative transport solutions, especially in oversized freight movement.”

The agenda therefore had a strong focus high productivity vehicle design such as Australia’s PBS scheme and Sweden’s ETT project, but also comprised the issue of road-vehicle interaction as well transport policies and road safety.

Having gained attention around the world, the local ETT project took the centre stage at the Stockholm conference. Initiated by the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden (Skogforsk), the three-year study managed to make the OEM sector, transport authorities and private road associations work hand in hand to improve efficiency in trucking.

The study vehicle was a 30m logging truck with a maximum gross combination weight of 90 tonnes, exceeding the current maximum by a third. Present Swedish legislation allows a gross combination weight of up to 60 tonnes and a vehicle combination length up to 25.25m.

A Swedish acronym for ‘One More Stack’, the ETT was comprised of a rigid truck followed by a B-double combination and used to connect a transport terminal and a sawmill. On two round trips, it would haul just as much as three conventional 60-tonne combinations, according to Skogforsk’s Claes Löfroth, who also pointed out a 22 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions that went with the capacity increase. “And subsequent results from measurements with lifted axles show that emissions could be reduced even more.”

As a result, a new, extended project has now been set up. The aim is to consolidate research in the field of high capacity vehicles such as the ETT, but also to allow the public to experience Sweden’s take on heavy-duty transport in real life. “The new project is called ETTdemo and will, if permitted by the Swedish Transport Agency, include a number of studies geographically spread throughout Sweden,” Löfroth revealed.

Representing the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, Paul Nordengen presented a related study on a ‘smart’ truck developed under the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) research programme. “We identified a need to design, manufacture and operate a PBS demonstration vehicle in order to gain practical experience in the PBS approach and to quantify and evaluate the potential infrastructure preservation, safety and productivity benefits for road freight transport,” he said.

According to Nordengen, the positive performance of the demo truck has resulted in the approval of 56 additional permits for PBS-style vehicles in the forestry segment, some of which now incorporate additional modifications that were made to optimise performance even more. “Initial monitoring of these vehicles and their respective baseline vehicles indicate that although longer and heavier, PBS vehicles are showing improved safety performance, improved productivity and a reduction in carbon footprint, while at the same time reducing road wear per tonne of payload and not compromising the safety of bridge structures, for instance.”

To complement Nordengen’s experience and provide more first-hand information, a strong Australian delegation gave an insight into the Australian take on PBS and the productivity gains achieved using an over-sized 77.5 tonne B-double (Victoria) or a steerable A-double (Queensland).

A German deputation, meanwhile, reported on the much talked-about long-vehicle trial that is focusing on increasing overall length while remaining a GVW of 44 tonnes. At the conference, the German approach was criticised as being “too cautious” since take up on the experiment is still low. 

Regardless of the country and the approach to heavy-duty transport, the vehicle assessment process played a major role throughout the entire conference. In that context, a Dutch research team benchmarked the performance of both existing and would-be concepts for the European market using the Australian PBS approach, while Australia’s ARRB Group presented an online route assessment tool that could simplify the process on a planning level.

But even in countries that are experienced on the heavy-duty front, an exemption is mandatory for all cargo that is too high, too wide, too tall or too heavy. Granting such exemptions on a case-by-case basis has led to a complexity that could slow down progress across the board, according to Dutch transport expert, Gerben Ferres, who took a close look at the current situation in the Netherlands. “The pitfall has been that we tried to make a rule for every exception. We have been overshot in the attempt to prevent misuse. A real solution would be to establish a framework where all parties involved take responsibility.”

According to Ferres, there is an urgent need to rearrange the political framework, from a ‘no, unless’ to a ‘yes, unless’ policy. “All roads should be free for abnormal road transport, unless there is a reason. The first step is to make a digital map instead of a written list of roads. With this, the Netherlands could go to another method of granting exemptions. Not the cargo would the basis, but the available space on the road.”

To prove the point, a Danish team followed a fictive heavy-duty transport throughout Europe and unveiled the regulatory problems encountered along the way. The fictive vehicle, a 23m semi with a total weight of 79 tonnes, “travelled” from Finland through Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany to Holland. The conclusion confirmed Ferres’ judgement.

“We have to create a more transparent system to ensure knowledge and efficient operation control. With this, abnormal transports can be carried out with everyone assured of the best security for these journeys and with a uniform administration throughout Europe,” said Hans Skat of Dansk Transport og Logistik. “Today, the burden of administration when obtaining the permit for abnormal transport is very heavy and involves high costs for all parties involved.”

According to Skat, the case study for abnormal freight is proof that the future development of the PBS programme in Europe and across the world is directly linked to simplifying legislation and improving co-operation between authorities and the transport industry.

One step to increase the understanding between authorities and the transport fraternity could be a more scientific approach to analysing the interaction between vehicle and pavement. The 2012 HVTT therefore included a whole range of studies on the topic, such as the relationship between dynamic loading and pavement damage (Australia) or freight damage (USA), the influence of road characteristics on fuel consumption (Sweden) and the impact of oversized vehicles on bridges (France), to name a few.

Just like a UN summit is meant to bring together leaders from around the globe, HVTT12 proved to be a specialists’ forum to elevate the role of responsible business and investment in bringing about the needed transformation to a more sustainable and efficient commercial road transport market. The next symposium will be held in Argentina.

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