Trailer Magazine


End-to-end PBS solutions

  • From the December 2019 issue.
End-to-end PBS solutions

As the uptake of Performance-Based Standards combinations is increasing among Australian truck operators, so, too, is the need for competent engineering firms like Smedley’s to facilitate the process of innovative road transport equipment design and optimal route access approval.

While the benefit of increased productivity from Performance-Based Standards (PBS) combinations is indisputable, there remain ongoing issues with getting said combinations on the road, particularly gaining permits from state and local road agencies to open access to the ‘final mile’ roads for deliveries and pickups.  

Family-owned firm Smedley’s Engineers provides a complete service that covers all aspects of PBS from initial design concepts through to final-mile road access approval.

Established in 1931 by William and Gilbert Smedley in Tasmania, Smedley’s Engineers has grown into a progressive and innovative specialised consulting firm. 

With a focus on developing ground-breaking engineering and Information Technology (IT) solutions, Smedley’s caters for all aspects of the automotive, manufacturing and broadcast industries in Australia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.
The company’s Director and Senior Engineer, Robert JG Smedley, has fostered a passion for all things mechanical since childhood.

After successfully completing a Bachelor of Engineering majoring in Robotics and Mechatronics, Robert joined heavy vehicle braking specialist Knorr-Bremse Australia. He subsequently rose to the position of Senior Engineer where among other projects he was responsible for developing the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) for PACCAR’s Australian Kenworth models – the first such system to be fitted to locally-built trucks.

Robert’s next appointment was as Principal Engineer for the Queensland Department of Main Roads where he advised on the technical issues relating to the construction and dynamic performance of heavy vehicles and the interrelationship between road geometry and heavy vehicle operating characteristics. This experience stood him in good stead when in December 2013 Robert joined with his father, Alan, to regenerate the Smedley family’s involvement in Australia’s heavy vehicle engineering industry.

Today, Robert maintains a high level of engagement with the Australian trucking industry through participation in industry reference groups, associations and events, and is currently the Vice Chairman of the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA). In addition to his managerial obligations, he displays a very pragmatic approach to his work, regularly getting behind the wheel of 18-speed RoadRanger equipped multi-combination vehicles for testing. 

Assisting the company with vehicle certifications and approvals including design assessments and road access permit approvals, Smedley’s has developed a sophisticated software program that is said to be the most advanced of its kind on the market.

In addition to working on multi-combination freight vehicles, the PBS specialist is also expanding into bus and coach work. Smedley’s software capabilities comprise highly complex computer simulation services such as non-linear modelling for structural deformation used in crash and incident recreation. This enables Smedley’s to offer further compliance capability including ADR59 bus rollover strength and roll cage design.

The end-to-end PBS solutions for truck and trailer combinations provided by Smedley’s involves assessing a concept to ascertain whether it will meet all PBS requirements and then having a body builder bring the concept to reality. Once it is built Smedley’s certifies the vehicle and can also organise route approval.

A body builder that regularly avails of Smedley’s PBS expertise is Sydney-based Borcat Trailers. The company’s Managing Director, John Thompson, started engaging Smedley’s more than five years ago and since then, he estimates, somewhere in the vicinity of 400 Borcat PBS truck and dog tipper combinations have been built.

“We’ve been dealing with Rob Smedley since he went out on his own with the PBS work in 2014,” John says. “I believe we were one of the first trailer manufacturers to engage his services. Over the last five years Smedley’s has grown significantly and taken on quite a few staff members.

“I’ve always found Rob and his staff to be very approachable and easy to work with – when I call them they either answer straight up or get back to me promptly.”

Borcat specialises in building aluminium tipping bodies for trucks and dog trailers with either three-, four- or five-axle configurations.

“Close to 90 per cent of the trailers we build are four-axle dogs, while the other ten per cent comprises virtually equal numbers of three- and five-axle units,” John says – adding that Borcat also has the ability to produce six-axle dogs to meet potential future customer requirements. “Smedley’s has completed all of our PBS assessments and certifications as well as a few permit applications.

Smedley’s has also assisted us with Finite Element Analysis (FIA) testing on some of our designs, in addition to Australian Design Rules (ADR) submissions for our drawbars and other components. We’ve had a long relationship with Smedley’s and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.”

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