Reaclear, from Innovative Safety Systems, aims to eliminate reversing accidents. Steve Banner attended the launch at Duncefold Park Racetrack in February to see the system in action.
Reversing a refuse collection vehicle is potentially fraught with danger. Even if a camera and sensors are fitted, there is always the risk that the driver will end up hitting a vulnerable road user, and in doing so suffer a lifetime of remorse.
A reversing assistant should minimise this risk but if it is freezing cold and pouring with rain, he or she might not want to get out of that nice warm cab.
How best to prevent reversing accidents is a challenge that Worcestershire-based Innovative Safety Systems has been working on for the last seven years. Managing director Gavin Thoday believes he has found the answer, and a growing number of local authorities and public service providers have already shown in interest in the new system.
The solution is called Reaclear. At its heart this is a waterproof, tough-looking two-way push-to-talk communications device held by the reversing assistant. Pushing the transmit button tells the driver that it is safe to back up. If an attempt is made to reverse the truck without first receiving the signal, an alarm sounds in the cab, lights flash, and an immediate alert is sent to the transport manager.
If a hazard appears, a button on the handset is released and the in-cab alarm is triggered to warn the driver to stop. The assistant can then use the device to tell whoever is at the wheel what's happening.
Reaclear works at a distance of up to 30m within a 180-degree arc behind the vehicle, and LEDs ensure that it glows when the light is poor. This makes it easier for the driver to see the assistant via a rear-mounted camera or in the truck's exterior rear-view mirrors.
The battery-operated handset takes four to five hours to charge up and will not work if the user is standing at the vehicle's sides.
Nor will it function if the assistant tries to press the transmit button while still sitting in the cab. As Gavin puts it, Reaclear forces reversing assistants to do their job.
Gavin believes that Reaclear is the only solution of its kind. The concept was first introduced to the industry at the 2016 RWM exhibition, where the company gathered feedback.
'We made several changes to the handset as a consequence of the feedback we got from potential customers,' says Gavin. 'These included making the handset more robust and integrating the lights'
Half a dozen Reaclears have been undergoing field trials, and Serco has three fitted to its vehicles. Bournemouth Borough Council has also been testing one for the past two years.
'It's working very well and we're happy with it,' says Bournemouth waste manager, Paul Hancock. 'Our vehicles have to reverse down some narrow streets and Reaclear makes things safer for the reversing assistant as well as for the public'
'The system is standing up well to what can be a tough working environment,' confirms Gavin. 'We're seeing a failure rate of less than 1%'
The order book officially opened at Duncefold Park racetrack near Guildford in Surrey, one of a series of similar exercises scheduled to be held countrywide. Attendees had the opportunity to see Reaclear demonstrated in conjunction with one of Bournemouth's 32-tonne refuse vehicles.
The event also featured a small display of vehicles and services from Geesinknorba, NTM, Refuse Vehicle Solutions, and Stock Sweepers. Faun, Epic and Iveco Retail also provided support.
A city council in the Midlands has already placed an order for two Reaclears, while a Welsh council looks set to order 30.
A reversing radar can be installed in addition to Reaclear. The former helps protect the vehicle from damage while the latter helps protects vulnerable people.
So how much does Reaclear cost? 'It's comparable with the current price of a quality reversing radar, which ranges from £1,500 to £2,200,' says ISS sales director, Oliver Hoadley.
'The comment we're getting from people is that they'd like to try it, and if it does what we say it does, then they'll fit it to everything'