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Transport infrastructure management

The CSIR’s research group for transport infrastructure management focuses on research, development and implementation in road asset management; vehicle load control; bridge management; heavy vehicles complying with performance-based standards; self-regulation of heavy vehicles; and abnormal loads system. The CSIR offers contracted services to external public and private sector clients, locally and internationally. Key focus areas are summarised below.
 

Road asset management

Road asset management is the set of coordinated activities that a road authority uses to realise value from the assets it is responsible for in the delivery of its outcomes or objectives. Realisation of value requires the achievement of a balance of costs, risks and benefits, often over different timescales. A road asset management system is an all-encompassing systems approach to road infrastructure asset management, where a road authority understands its organisational context; defines its portfolio of assets; establishes an asset management policy; aligns its organisation and leadership; employs the required competent people for planning and execution; supplies them with appropriate computer tools to provide the required information and decision support, underpinned by risk management, continuous performance evaluation and improvement of its road asset management system.

The CSIR assists road authorities with road asset management. This assistance includes developing road asset management strategies, implementation and operation of road asset management systems, data collection processes, data analysis and reporting. The organisation does not provide road asset management software, but undertakes projects in collaboration with industry partners that can supply the software and other technical services that are required for road asset management.
 

Vehicle load control

Heavy vehicle overloading continues to be a major problem in South Africa, notwithstanding efforts at more effective enforcement by the road and traffic authorities. Overloading causes premature road deterioration. A number of national, provincial and metropolitan strategies have been developed by the CSIR, including the National Overload Control Strategy. The research group has also been involved in overload control projects in a number of other countries in Africa, including Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, Senegal and Uganda. The research group has developed vehicle weighing software, WinNuwei, which is used at provincial weighbridges in Limpopo, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State. Vehicle load control data is analysed using the Vehicle Overload Management System developed by the CSIR.

 

Performance-standards

Typically, heavy vehicles travelling on public roads are controlled by prescriptive regulations, where vehicle performance is governed indirectly by regulating vehicle mass and vehicle dimensions. These regulations may differ significantly from country to country, and regional harmonisation is difficult. Furthermore, in trying to be a one-size-fits-all solution, prescriptive regulations can and do result in some vehicle designs that are inherently unsafe on the road, or which impose excessive loading on the infrastructure. An alternative approach to heavy vehicle regulation is to consider actual on-road performance of heavy vehicles and specify minimum safety and infrastructure performance measures: a performance-based standards (PBS) approach. This approach has been a proven method of improving both heavy vehicle safety (reduced crashes) and productivity (lower costs), while also reducing the impact that the vehicles have on the road infrastructure (less road wear per ton of payload) and the environment (reduced emissions). In addition, the approach gives vehicle designers and operators greater flexibility in implementing innovative heavy vehicle designs, leading to more productive and efficient road freight logistics solutions, and a more competitive logistics sector. This results in a better match between the vehicle and road infrastructure (roads and bridges). PBS vehicles are typically limited to a specific subset of the road network, which has been assessed as suitable, to ensure the safety of other road users and the protection of the road infrastructure. The research group has expertise in testing the compliance of proposed PBS vehicles with the prescribed performance-based standards, using simulation software, as well as in assessing the road wear and impact on bridges of these PBS vehicles to ensure that their road wear and impact per ton of payload are less than those of conventional vehicles.

 

Bridge management

Bridges and other road-related structures are regarded as key elements in the road network and, therefore, effective management and proper maintenance of these structures is essential. Bridges deteriorate with time and factors such as types of defect, location of bridge, traffic volumes, material quality, design and construction defects and many others will influence the rate of deterioration. The CSIR bridge management system, STRUMAN, is the major system utilised by road authorities in South Africa and in some SADC countries. A large portion of road-related structures in South Africa is now being systematically managed through visual and, where necessary, project-level inspections, asset prioritisation and optimisation. This systematic approach to the management of structures has, in many cases, also contributed to motivations for substantial increases in budgets for bridge maintenance and repair. The economic benefits of using a systems approach to the management of structures have been proven by various authorities.
 

Self-regulation of heavy vehicles

Self-regulation in the heavy vehicle transport sector was recommended (by the CSIR) in the National Overload Control Strategy as a potential initiative that could complement law enforcement efforts, not only to reduce heavy vehicle overloading, but also to improve vehicle maintenance and driver wellness (primarily health and training). The CSIR has been one of the key drivers of this initiative since its inception in the forestry industry. One of the key concepts is to involve the total logistics chain (consignor, transport operator and consignee) in the accreditation system, thereby taking responsibility for heavy vehicle transport on the public road network. The key focus areas of RTMS are load optimization, driver wellness, vehicle maintenance and productivity.

 

Abnormal load system

Abnormal loaded vehicles are vehicles that do not comply with the Road Traffic Act, 1996 (Act 93 of 1996) in terms of permissible dimensions and axle masses. The CSIR has developed software that is utilised by the nine provincial permit offices to register abnormal vehicles and issue permits for the transport of abnormal loads. The purpose of abnormal vehicle registration is to ensure that the vehicle/components that do not comply with the regulations are registered. This ensures that all types of vehicles are registered, namely truck tractors, dollies, semi-trailers, combinations of the above and mobile cranes. The program calculates the applicable permit fees and issues the permits for the movement of abnormal loads. The abnormal loads system computerises the lengthy process of manually calculating permissible masses, as well as permit fees.

Khangwelo Muronga