Gavin Thoday looks at the latest in vehicle safety technology and the rationale for fitting safety devices
Proper risk assessments, procedures, staff training, vehicle selection, inspection and maintenance all have an important role in keeping vehicles, crew and the public safe. But as most accidents occur when a vehicle is moving, in particular reversing, this is the crucial area where safety technology can make a huge difference.
The first aim needs to be improving the driver’s field of vision and eliminating blind spots. Reverse camera systems provide additional visibility for drivers, assisting them in performing difficult manoevres, particularly reversing. A further step is hard disk recording (DVR) technology, which enables the recording of up to three months worth of footage of vehicle activity.
Most safety providers now accept that live recording is unworkable, as cellular network infrastructures are not sufficiently capable to support the technology consistently. But LANlink technology provides an excellent alternative, allowing footage to be downloaded from each vehicle as soon as it returns to depot every day. LANlink also produces an automatic daily health report that flags up any camera function issues so these can be dealt with swiftly.
DVR not only improves health and safety practice but reduces the number of accidents and assists with any investigations into insurance claims or complaints made against the service or staff.
It is not just local authorities that are recognising the need to protect themselves and their crews from insurance fraudsters. Commercial recycling and waste operators have reported a surge in false claims and ‘slamming brakes’ personal injury scams, which have led them to fit DVR to their vehicles.
HSE stipulates that all round vision is essential wherever achievable and has advised the use of CCTV, additional mirrors and reversing alarms.
Reversing alarms alert passers-by that a vehicle is performing a specific manoevre but is that enough? Reversing radars alert drivers of any obstructions that are behind the vehicle. In April 2011, ISS called for such radars to be compulsory following a fatal and avoidable accident in Brighton when a member of the public was killed by a reversing vehicle. There have been leaps in radar technology and they now allow for the detection of both moving and stationary objects for up to 10 metres away.
Less sophisticated radars require a closing distance and are not as effective at detecting stationary object. With the latest radars, drivers can programme specific detection zones to be more or less sensitive depending on the operational environment, plus they can choose from either a visual or audio warning, or both at different times.
Lighting technology, namely LED, is another example where improved safety standards go hand in hand with cost savings. LEDs offers brighter, therefore better safety devices, as well as being more energy efficient, so no more flat batteries. They are also far more rugged and can withstand the most demanding of environments – vibration, direct impact and extreme temperatures.
Pressure is also mounting on vehicle manufacturers and operators to take steps to prevent accidents with vulnerable road users and cyclists. To tackle this, ISS has recently launched its Cyclear system, incorporating an audible sign and a sensor that alerts drivers when an object is moving up the side of the vehicle from the rear to the front.
Gavin Thoday is director of Innovative Safety Systems