Road accidents have become one of the biggest causes of deaths in the UAE, but one manufacturer is fighting back with a not-so-new method of killing speed
A shocking report released this summer revealed that over 124,000 people were killed in road accidents in the worlds top 27 industrialised countries. That figure is the equivalent to a quarter of Dubai s population!
In Egypt alone last year, over 6,000 people were killed and 30,000 injured in road traffic accidents. There are numerous reasons to the causes of road deaths which include drunken driving, driver fatigue and driver error, but the biggest evil on the road is speeding. The faster the vehicle travels, the more likely it is to crash.
The roads of the UAE have been well-documented as being some of the most hazardous because of crazy drivers and, as more multi-lane freeways are developed, the faster the flow of traffic will be, creating more unwanted statistics and press reports of death and destruction. While vehicle manufacturers seem intent on creating cars that go even faster, one company has concentrated its efforts on trying to improve road safety, by introducing a speed limiter to the UAE market for the first time.
Having successfully introduced its speed limiter to Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Tebra brought the System 2000 to Dubai two years ago, and has since taken it to Qatar and Lebanon. The System 2000 is an electronically controlled, pneumatically operated system offering accurate speed control in all climate conditions. The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) is connected to the tachograph, speedometre, or mechanical sensor and receives frequency signals when the vehicle is in motion. At a pre-set frequency, for example 80km/h, the ECU transmits a signal to the pressure proportional valve. The valve opens, allowing air to flow to the Throttle Control Cylinder mounted within the throttle linkage. The cylinder lengthens or shortens the linkage, thus controlling the speed.
In a nutshell, it can be fitted to a vehicle to restrict it from exceeding a set speed limit. In Europe and the EU, such speed limiters are law in trucks and buses, and Tebra hopes the law will eventually spread to the rest of the world.
This is a key development in the improvement of road safety, said Hassan Hijazi, Sales and Marketing Manager for Tebra. There are thousands of deaths caused every year because of speeding vehicles and this device has already been proved to save lives. Hassan believes that all large vehicles should be fitted with the device, but explains that in small private cars it should be left at the discretion of the owner.
We are not trying to slow vehicles down, it is important to stress that. We are stopping large vehicles from breaking the law by taking away their opportunity to exceed the speed limit.
Al Habtoor Engineering was the first company to have their heavy vehicles fitted with speed limiters last year, and it has reported an 85 per cent decrease in the number of accidents their vehicles were involved in. Other firms have taken Al Habtoors lead, including Emarat which has fitted speed limiters to their petrol tankers; amazingly, no other petrol company in the UAE has had their tankers fitted with speed limiters. In Oman, the petrochemical industry has made it law for its vehicles to be fitted with these devices. A similar pattern has been followed in Kuwait.
Hassan says fitting speed limiters should be the duty of every transport manager in the UAE as a safety pledge to other road users, and in the case of buses, to their passengers. You see some school buses on the roads going far too fast, he said. Parents leave their children in the hands of bus drivers, who take a liberty by travelling too fast. The opportunity to do this should be taken away from them.
It is an appalling, and sad, fact that many haulage operators encourage their drivers to go faster by paying bonuses for completing more trips, but speeding can back-fire as Hassan wisely pointed out. By going faster, a truck driver may complete an extra two or three trips a day, but how many do they lose if they crash. They can be off the road for months!
Hassan refers to one example of a delivery van driver in Malaysia, who nagged about his speed limiter restricting his work output. He eventually got his way and the transport manager agreed to have it removed from his van. It was taken off at 6am and by 5pm he was dead, said Hassan, who has a file packed with similar stories and press reports.
The speed limiters cost between Dhs1500 to Dhs3500, a small price to pay for saving lives, and the other benefits it provides are numerous too. Maintenance costs are reduced because the vehicle travels slower; less fuel is used which means a reduction in air pollution. It also reduces driver fatigue, another major cause of traffic accidents. Driving faster uses more human senses resulting in the driver becoming tired a lot quicker than if he or she was driving at a more steady speed, added Hassan, who pointed out that of 18,000 units sold in Oman since 1993, only 14 have been brought back for repair.
A truck travelling at 70 km/h takes 28 metres to come to a halt, which will give some idea of the problems created if a truck exceeds the speed limit. People are fearful of the roads in the UAE because of reckless driving and speeding vehicles, so it will come as a major relief to many to hear that one company is doing its part to make the roads a safer place to travel on.
The speed limiters are developed by Manchester-based company Romatic, which specialises in a range of vehicle efficiency equipment. Tebra act as their Middle East agent, and another innovation which has recently taken the Middle East transport industry by storm is the Automatic Lubrication System, an electronically timed, pneumatically operated system which allows grease to enter the distributor at regularly set times to ensure the smooth running of the vehicle.
This puts an end to the manual greasing of vehicles which generally takes up to six hours a month on an average sized truck.
It was 25 years ago that the first oil lubrication systems were first fitted to buses at the request of manufacturers. The primary reasons for fitting the lubrication systems to these vehicles were the difficulties encountered when trying to lubricate the various steering and suspension points due to the bus or coach bodywork.
Engineers soon became aware that lubrication fed at regular intervals extended component life, reduced down time, and increased productivity. It is generally accepted by most engineers that it is easier and more efficient to pump lubricant into a bearing in motion than to force it into a bearing when static. This is where the Romatic automatic lubrication systems come into their own.
This is really taking off in the UAE, said Hassan. It has been used for over 20 years in the UK and companies there were quick to see the benefits, both financial and practical, that the automatic lubrication systems provide. We expect the same to happen here.