Technology and manufacturing giant Altron’s vehicle tracking and fleet management subsidiary, Netstar, has developed a collision avoidance and proximity detection solution to help mitigate some of the potential for mining vehicle fleet accidents.

This new Fleet Solution for Mining was officially launched at Electra Mining Africa 2018 in September, Netstar Group MD, Pierre Bruwer, tells Chantelle Kotze.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 11 2018

In support of the quest by all mining industry stakeholders to reach ‘Zero Harm’, the implementation of a collision avoidance system as part the operation’s fleet management system.

While not only a regulatory standard of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), it is also an effective way to ensure safe working conditions for mineworkers when working in close confines to surface mobile machinery, says Bruwer.

Netstar’s Fleet Solution for Mining is fully compliant with the DMR’s 2015 amendment to Chapter 8 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, which stipulates that an employer must take measures to ensure that pedestrians are prevented from being injured as a result of collisions with trackless mobile machines, which made it mandatory for all vehicles on mines to be fitted with collision avoidance proximity systems.

This law was enacted to improve safety on mines, especially when vehicles over 30 m in height are in operation, such as in open cast operations, as well as aiding in the reduction of injuries associated with pedestrian mining accidents.

“In complying with this, we are proud to be able to offer such a solution to the mining industry and be part of finding solutions to ensure safe conditions for people working on the mine site,” says Bruwer.

With a strong existing portfolio of fleet solutions, Netstar naturally progressed into developing its own collision avoidance and proximity detection solution – having previously been a supplier of other OEM-manufactured systems.

“From a product evolution perspective, it made sense for us to leverage our in-house technology stack to develop this solution.

In turn, this has opened up mining as a vertical integration pillar for us,” Bruwer explains, adding that the development of a collision avoidance system is the first step towards developing a much larger portfolio of mining-specific solutions in future, aimed at getting the Netstar brand well entrenched in the mining industry.

Netstar’s collision avoidance system unpacked

The scalable and cost-effective solution, which was developed in South Africa in under 12 months, provides drivers with a 360° view, via an in-vehicle display, of the proximity of other vehicles as well as pedestrians.

Proximity is detected using German-based Nanotron technology – which is particularly effective and accurate in dusty conditions and at night, when visibility is significantly reduced,” explains James Hulley, the mining and associated industries business development manager for Netstar.

“The system works by alerting drivers audibly and visually (DMR level 7 intervention) ahead of potential issues, which not only reduces accidents, but also improves operational efficiencies.

Furthermore, “the system provides real-time data and connects through a variety of options, including cellphone networks, WiFi, Bluetooth and radio networks, as additional fail safes,” Hulley adds.

As the DMR’s requirements ramp up, so the system will be upgraded to ensure compliance.

By June 2019, Netstar’s Fleet Solution for Mining will have the added functionality to take over control of a vehicle and slow it down if the operator does not acknowledge the presence of a vehicle, person or object, referred to as a level 8 intervention, and by June 2020, the solution will be able to automatically come to a stop without human involvement, a level 9 intervention.

Fully integrated fleet functionality

In addition, when coupled with Netstar’s other fleet functionality, the solution enables companies to optimise their fleets as it monitors driver behaviour, which aids in cutting down on excessive fuel usage, alerts managers as to when maintenance services are required, and provides valuable data that will aid in the event of an insurance claim.

“By incorporating telematics and collision avoidance software into our current product offering, we have created a fleet solution that makes mining – a core part of South Africa’s economy – safer,” adds Bruwer.

Netstar’s solutions-based approach to doing business, Bruwer believes, stands the company in good stead to supply its customisable and integrated fleet solutions to mines in Africa and Australia – two markets which he states are “very solutions orientated”.

“What gives us a foothold into these two markets is that we can deliver the customised solutions that they need”.

This solution is not only available within the regions that Netstar currently services, but also in other markets serviced by Altron.

This translates into a regional network of more than 16 African countries.

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