Red Forge adds sophistication with '20/20 Vision'
Red Forge states its latest development in axle loads indicators, the "20 / 20", represents the most recent evolution of its established "Axalert" system. The Redditch based company adds that this system offers "a greater than ever range of features, many of which are unique."
The chassis-mounted sensors of the "Axalert 20 / 20" are hailed as completely new and embody cutting-edge technology which Red Forge says it is keeping a closely guarded secret. The sensors have also been reduced in size by about 70%, allowing more flexibility of location.
In most situations loading is monitored by two sensors on the front axle to accommodate articulation on uneven surfaces, and one on each of the rear axles.
Self testing diagnostics within the system can detect any loss of signal from the sensors, caused by under chassis damage, for instance, and this is indicated on an in-cab control head unit. Dynamic damping also compensates for undulating road surfaces when the vehicle is in motion to prevent erroneous audible warnings being generated.
Signals from the loading sensors are fed to a totally sealed amplifier box for processing and the data generated is again displayed on the in-cab control head unit. This is where Red Forge says it has taken a "quantum leap" in maintaining data integrity within the system. Until now, the company states, axle-load indicator systems have depended on a single microprocessor to both process data and act as storage for the operating software and the data so processed. The weakness of this is that the reliability of the entire system is at great risk. If, for any reason, this single microprocessor should be damaged or become unstable in any way, all data captured, operating software and calibration will be lost.
Aircraft control technology
In order to overcome the weakness of this approach Red Forge has embraced aircraft control technology. Axalert 20 / 20 incorporates two independent micro-processors, one within the amplifier box and one in the display head, working in concert to eliminate the threat of potential data loss and consequent system failure. Because data is securely stored in separate locations, reprogramming of either a replacement amplifier unit or display head will take place immediately by automatic downloading from the existing to the new component.
Overloading records are stored in a tamper-proof, "non volatile" memory accessible only by entering the correct security PIN number. This information can be retrieved to an optional plug-in printer within the cab or downloaded later to a centralised computer system upon return to the depot.
Red Forge adds that any disputes concerning overloading allegations can be investigated quickly, and issues addressed where RCV crews may be ignoring warnings from the system in order to complete rounds early on "task and finish" working. Up to 30 incidents can be stored and interrogated in this way.
By connecting to a compatible telematic system, data generated by Axalert 20 / 20 can be transmitted back to base continuously and acted upon accordingly. Added to this is the ability to inform drivers of impending problems by either radio or mobile phone, and to follow vehicle locations by means of a GPS tracking interface.
To help prevent inadvertent overloading on refuse collection vehicles, the system has a feature that renders the packing-plate or bin-lifter mechanisms inoperative above a preset weight. In order to prevent "stammering" of these mechanisms in borderline situations, or restarting if weight transfer takes place in a new inclined location, adjustable hysteresis or a "dead-band" is built in. This can be set at any point below the maximum permissible weight or even to prevent restarts completely until unloading has taken place.
The Axalert 20 / 20 Axle Load Indicator is suitable for both conventional "steel" and air suspension systems. In the case of air suspension, air transducers are used to carry out the load sensing by measuring the increase in air pressure within the air suspension units. Variable ride-height systems are used to maintain the ride height at the vehicle manufacturers' specification, or to temporally adjust the ride-height to allow greater ground clearance. In the normal on-road driving condition, the proper ride-height is established and the deferential in air pressure can be calculated. Electronically controlled air suspension (ECAS) incorporates a tolerance band to compensate for undulating or uneven road-surfaces.
Flintshire opts for '20/20'
At Flintshire County several Axalert 20/20 Systems are now installed on kerbside recycling and refuse collection vehicles. Fleet Liaison Officer, Bill Bownas, says: "We have a very good relationship with our crews", adding, "We had data printers installed in the cabs of our vehicles as we see this as an effective way of protecting both ourselves and our drivers from litigation. At this stage we have not opted for the packer-plate or bin-lifter cut out features but may consider these when acquiring new refuse collection vehicles in the future."