Since September 11, there's been a lot of discussion among fleets and manufacturers about providing greater security for commercial trucks, especially ones hauling hazardous materials. The question is what kinds of technologies might be used to provide that security and how they would affect how fleets operate their vehicles.
Seattle-based Kenworth Truck Co. unveiled a demonstration vehicle last March that illustrates how truck security and safety could be improved via a variety of technological systems and devices.
At the Mid America Trucking Show in March, Kenworth Chief Engineer Jim Bechtold said the company worked with Heil Trailer International to produce its T800 High-Tech Truck for bulk haulers, which typically transport cargo such as fuel and hazardous materials.
For starters, Bechtold said tractor and trailer systems are integrated so that they can electronically "communicate" with each other, he said. But the key security technology on the vehicle is what's called a "biometric authentication" system in the tractor cab.
"When the driver's fingerprint is verified via a sensor, the ignition system is enabled and the vehicle can be operated at normal traffic speeds," said Bechtold. "If the fingerprint doesn't match, the vehicle can still be started."
Bechtold added that the truck would then run at a severely restricted horsepower, which limits operation to well below normal speeds. The fleet dispatcher also receives an alert message via wireless communication that an unauthorized user is involved, he said.
The system, made by Sherman Oaks, CA-based Bioscrypt, loads the fingerprints of drivers into a database and translates them into digital templates that are stored for subsequent authentication. This information is uploaded via a wireless link to the vehicle which the driver is authorized to use by the fleet, Bechtold said.
Once behind the wheel, the driver inserts a finger into the sensor mounted into the dash panel. If it matches an "enrolled" fingerprint stored on the Kenworth Vehicle Information Center (VIC), an encrypted authorization approval is sent to the engine controller. The ignition system then is enabled to start the vehicle. Without this electronic authorization, the engine's horsepower will be severely restricted to prevent the vehicle from being operated at normal traffic speeds, Bechtold said.
Then there is what's called a geo-fencing system on the truck, based on Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking technology. Geo-fencing sets up an electronic fence around a truck's route via satellite tracking systems. The dispatcher receives information on the driver's identity, adherence to a predetermined and authorized route, vehicle weight, and other data. The system then automatically alerts the dispatcher if the truck deviates from its preset route, Bechtold said.
Some geo-fencing systems also have the ability to pinpoint a truck's location on a digital aerial photograph, primarily to help law enforcement get to a potentially hijacked vehicle faster. A truck's location can be quickly 'back-dropped' on an aerial photograph of a particular route, which is then sent to law enforcement agencies by fax or electronic mail, according to one system designer.