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    Credit: MICO Inc.

    The radar system, mounted on the back of the vehicle, monitors the distance from objects and sends an alert to the cab. When the vehicle reaches the preset distance from an object, the brake system is automatically engaged.

The self-contained system does not interfere with the vehicle's operation or normal braking system. It can be installed by fleet maintenance crews following manufacturer instructions.

The system initiates when the vehicle is shifted into reverse, and a pulsed radar system begins to sweep the area millions of times per second. The sensor detects stationary or moving objects based on the time it takes for the radar signal to reflect off an item. Distances are relayed to a display in the cab that updates almost immediately as a series of lights progressively illuminates while an alarm increases in tempo. When the vehicle reaches the preset distance from an object, 10 feet for instance, the system automatically engages the service brakes and stops the vehicle. Multiple sensors may be installed on single vehicles to obtain a greater coverage area.

Should a situation require maneuvering closer to an object, such as a loading dock, the operator can hold a button to unlock the brakes manually. Releasing the override button will engage the brakes again.

Once a system is installed, minimal maintenance checks are needed, although the operation instructions advise testing the system regularly as a safety precaution. The radar sensors are encapsulated in a durable material to protect the sensitive components from dust, moisture, and vibration. The systems typically can operate at -40F to 185F.

At first, the cost of installing such an integrated safety package throughout a fleet may seem prohibitive. Is the added safety level worth the money? From a strictly financial standpoint, the system can pay for itself by preventing just one accident. Risk management executives attest to spending considerably more than what the system costs simply to conduct an investigation of an incident—and that's before the cost of repairs, medical treatment, or other subsequent expenses.

The combination brake-lock and radar detection system is versatile and cost-effective. Whether installed in a garbage truck in a neighborhood full of children or a in utility vehicle maneuvering toward a light pole, this new safety feature protects the community.

Jason Huntley is applications coordinator for MICO Inc., North Mankato, Minn.