A mine of innovation

Over a diverse career spanning more than four decades, Dr Hans Prem has developed novel engineering solutions to address complex problems – everything from motorcycles to 500-tonne off-road dump trucks used in the mining industry.

Upon completing his Mechanical Engineering degree with first class honours at the University of Melbourne in 1979, Hans Prem undertook a PhD at the same University to study vehicle dynamics.

With his choice of vehicle being the motorcycle, the focus of his research was to measure, using sophisticated equipment, and better understand the skills necessary to control a motorcycle with the ultimate aim of reducing high accident rates among low-time, inexperienced riders.

Early in his career, after taking a research engineer/scientist position with the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), Hans was given a thorny problem of national significance – the calibration of road roughness measuring equipment and the measurement and analysis of road surface unevenness, otherwise known as pavement rideability.

This led him to develop the prototype version of ARRB’s laser-based profilometer which was the solution to the problem. Later versions of the profilometer, which became a flagship ARRB product and global service offering, are today used for surveys of road condition performed at the road-network level.

As Research Co-ordinator of Heavy Vehicles and Mining at ARRB, and then Chief Scientist, Hans’ interests continued in the areas of heavy- and multi-combination vehicle dynamics, infrastructure impacts, dynamics of vehicle-bridge interaction and safety performance.

With his comprehensive understanding of heavy vehicle dynamics, Hans provided, and continues to provide, recommendations for the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme for heavy vehicles.

In the early ‘90s, working in a research role for a large mining company, Hans was involved with the design of large off-road dump trucks, which entailed working in the USA for two years with a major mining truck manufacturer on a new, lightweight, innovative design.

“I was responsible for every part of the design and I had to oversee the entire project and sign-off on every drawing, from go to whoa,” Hans says. “I also gained my first US patent on the rear suspension system we developed which was a novel design and one of the key features of the truck.”

Hans proudly relates that the finished product was featured on the front cover of Australian Mining in September 1997 with the headline, ‘The Aussie truck: Made in America’.

This is just a small snapshot of what Dr Hans Prem has achieved during his illustrious career.

However, with his most recent innovation in fifth wheel technology set to launch soon, it’s likely he will continue to influence the safety and productivity of the transport industry for many years to come.

Industry Icon
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.