Picture of the Ident system in a truck cab

Middlesbrough acts to prevent terrorist vehicle theft

Published:  26 September, 2017

Middlesbrough Council has taken steps to ensure its fleet of refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) are kept firmly under the control of designated council staff and can’t be used as weapons by terrorists.

It has introduced Ident, a radio frequency tagging system from Vision Techniques that prevents anyone without an authorised tag from driving the vehicle.

By all-but eliminating the opportunity for vehicle theft, Middlesbrough Council has taken away the danger of their vehicles being used as weapons which could cause loss of life.

Waste operations manager Peter Salt, who is responsible for the 25 RCVs that cover the city centre and its urban and residential areas, said: ‘There are so many instances where a vehicle could be out of our control.’

‘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 and in the past decade it has fitted recording and camera safety systems, so Peter looked to the supplier for a new security solution.

The Ident system works by locking both vehicle ignition and handbrake from use, essentially preventing anyone from jumping in the cab and driving away.

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.

Peter Salt said: ‘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.

‘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 to. It’s clearly a safety feature that the industry requires.’

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.

‘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,’ added Peter.
‘That system also lacked an off button, so, if a fault occurred, there was no way of stopping the technology, disabling the vehicle and causing huge amounts of vehicle downtime.’

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. And Ident also 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” Peter explained.

Peter plans to install Ident on all new municipal vehicles moving forward, cementing Middlesbrough’s ethics in prevention over 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 too.’

Peter is also joining other councils in North-East England 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 and 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,’ he said.

‘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.’

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LAPV (Local Authority Plant and Vehicles) is the only UK information source purely dedicated to local authority vehicles and affiliated plant equipment. Appearing four times a year, it offers well-researched technical articles on the latest equipment/technology as well as in-depth interviews with key industry professionals. More...

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