Heavy Vehicle Simulator – an enduring legacy with a trajectory well into the future

The heavy vehicle simulator (HVS) is a CSIR-developed testing facility for roads. It is a success story with global impact and one that has had a major impact on the design, construction and maintenance of roads locally and abroad for more than 40 years.

There is no doubt that the results obtained from the HVS programme over the past four decades will influence all road design undertaken currently in South Africa, and well into the future. Roads are the lifeblood of an economy; at a cost of between R15 million and R8 million for a kilometre for a highway with a relatively short lifespan of 20 to 40 years, a country’s roads infrastructure has to be scientifically constructed and maintained to maximise cost-effectiveness.

The HVS is a high-tech accelerated road-testing field lab with unique instruments that measure and analyse the engineering performance of road structures and material layers to test whether a specific road will have an acceptable lifespan. These results are invaluable to taking corrective action in road design and selecting the best construction materials and methods when planning the construction of long stretches of new roads.

The CSIR-developed HVS has been used locally to test the technology for using ultra-thin concrete technology for application in high-volume roads in South Africa. The original road design was imported from Denmark and adapted for local conditions. Working with the University of Pretoria, the Cement and Concrete Institute and local consultants, the CSIR used the HVS to test the final design and fast-track the implementation of the technology.

According to the CSIR’s Louw du Plessis, an international expert in accelerated pavement (road) testing, “The ultra-thin, high-performance concrete is reinforced considerably for application in high-volume roads – seven times more steel is used than in ordinary continuously reinforced concrete.”

The South African National Roads Agency Limited has implemented the technology for high-volume roads on the N12 near the Gillooly’s interchange in Gauteng. In the Western Cape, the technology has been used on the N1 freeway between the Klip River Toll Plaza and the Huguenot Tunnel. The technology has also been used on an apron at the Oliver Tambo International Airport.

Over the next few years, CSIR research using the HVS will be aligned with the Gauteng Provincial Department of Roads and Transport strategy to cost-effectively and efficiently rehabilitate and upgrade Gauteng’s road network – one where more than 70% of the roads have reached the end of their design lifespans. Attention will be given specifically to public transport routes, freight corridors and the upgrading of unpaved roads. It is foreseen that the local and international HVS programmes will continue to thrive, with other countries and research groups likely to order HVS machines.


Dr Louw du Plessis


The HVS:

  • enables the improvement of road design and construction practices
  • provides a high-tech field lab for accelerated road-testing;
  • simulates damage caused by traffic over 20 years in three months; and
  • has been exported to a number of countries, with 11 units active worldwide.

HVS technology licensing:

The HVS technology platform was licensed to Dynatest, a private company in the USA. Dynatest markets and manufactures the machines and also maintains the 11 machines already in operation. The CSIR receives a royalty for HVS sales from Dynatest.


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