In a bid to prevent its refuse collection vehicles being stolen, and possibly used as weapons in a terrorist attack, Middlesbrough Council has installed Vision Teqnique Techniques’ Ident anti-theft system.
Europe has suffered from some of the most vicious vehicle attacks on innocent members of the public in the past three years. Trucks, vans and lorries are stolen or rented and used as weapons in densely populated cities such as Paris, Barcelona and London, causing major damage and killing hundreds of people.
Although it is a challenging task to avoid these tragedies, some vehicle operators are using technology to stop their vehicles from being easy targets; preventing disasters before they can happen.
Waste Operations Manager Peter Salt is responsible for the 25 waste collection vehicles at Middlesbrough council, covering the city centre and its urban and residential areas, facing vast variances in traffic levels, population density and criminal activity
“There are so many instances where a vehicle could be out of our control.” Salt Explained. “If someone jumps in with the engine running and tries to steal it - that’s a 26 tonne truck, it could cause a lot of damage in the wrong hands.”
Middlesbrough council has had a long standing relationship with Vision Techniques (VT) and in the past decade has used a mixture of recording and camera solutions to enhance vehicle safety.
In his search for a security system VT introduced Salt to Ident, its in-house developed radio frequency tagging system that prevents anyone without an authorised tag from driving the vehicle. Ident can lock both vehicle ignition and handbrake from use; essentially preventing anyone from jumping in the cab and driving away.
VT said that by eliminating vehicle theft, Middlesbrough Council have taken away the danger of their vehicles being used as weapons which could cause loss of life.
Salt added: “It is a fact that the waste industry has a high volume of accidents. If we can prevent one accident, it’s worth every penny.”
Drivers must present their tag to release the handbrake and start the ignition, with enhanced versions of the technology allowing for rear machinery control with multiple tag readers.
“I think having different levels of authority is fantastic. We currently use Ident to control the ignition and handbrake for drivers but controlling the rear machinery would be great, It’s clearly a safety feature that the industry requires,” he continued.
Before Ident, Middlesbrough used a competitor system that used ‘active’ tags which enable operators to drive away as long as the tags were near a sensor in the seat. This meant the system would often be invalidated by operators leaving the tag in-between the seats.
“The drivers knew how to place the tag to disable the system and they knew we cannot be everywhere at once to ensure the effective use, so they often did,” said Salt.
Unfortunately the existing system also didn’t have an off button. This meant if a fault occurred there was no way of stopping the technology, disabling the vehicle and causing huge amounts of vehicle downtime.
According to VT its Ident solved both these issues. Ident is a passive RFID system which means the tag has to be presented to the reader. Leaving the tag sat on or near the reader doesn’t work; preventing tampering.
Ident has a master key switch, so if faults occur the vehicle will continue to run or can be driven back to the depot.
“Our staff like the VT Ident system. It’s so easy to show the wrist tag and get on with your daily routine,” commented Salt.
He also plans to install Ident on all new municipal vehicles moving forward in-line with Middlesbrough Council’s ethics in prevention rather than reaction, especially when argued against the value of the vehicles.
“We’re trying to prevent someone getting in the cab and stealing the vehicle. During their shift our drivers are responsible for these £180,000 26 tonne vehicles, so we’re trying to help protect both driver and asset.”
Salt is also joining other councils in the North East by looking at combining VT technology for a complete solution. By integrating VT BrakeSafe alongside Ident the vehicle is secure from either theft or driver error. Put simply, the vehicle will not move unless it is by someone with correct authority.
“We’d like to prevent the possibility of a vehicle rollaway and it fits nicely with Ident. One of my concerns is the driver forgetting the handbrake that one time, who knows how much damage that would cause? We have to look at the likelihood of something like this,” he concluded.
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