Minding the gap between road and truck
How Innovation awards finalist Rota Rail prevents road users from sliding under a truck or articulated vehicle
From left, Michael O’Donovan, Bridie O’Mahony Daly and Ronan Twomey of RGSK
Rota Rail is a new road safety device designed to prevent road users from sliding underneath a truck or articulated vehicle in the event of an accident. Most heavy vehicles already have existing rigid lateral protection guards. The problem is they are positioned quite high on a truck’s side mainly because mounting them any lower runs the risk of damage from speed bumps, pot holes and ramps.
What makes the Rota Rail unique is that its patented articulated arm design means it can move backwards and forwards to cope with obstructions without any compromise in lateral safety. This allows it to be fitted much lower to the ground. The developers of the rail, Bandon-based engineering company RGSK, say it has the potential to greatly reduce the severity of injuries caused when road users have the misfortune to come into contact with a truck or trailer.
The company’s research has shown that while the law requires lateral protection devices to be 500mm above the ground, this is too high to protect people in real life situations. “There was plenty of evidence from the number of entanglement accidents each year that this height was not satisfactory,” says RGSK’s managing director, Ronan Twomey. “The Rota Rail allows the open space to be reduced, thereby greatly improving outcomes for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users while also reducing risk for truck operators and drivers. Ours is the only device of its kind that allows the articulation of a safety rail while meeting all current road safety regulations.”
Twomey (who founded Twomey Precision Engineering in 2005) was approached in June of last year with the concept for the Rota Rail product. The original idea had come from a businessman with a large fleet of trucks who was having difficulty moving the idea forward. Within a month, Twomey’s company had developed a prototype and the product was launched in November last year at the “Freight in The City” trade show in London where strong interest was shown in the product from large-scale truck and trailer manufacturers.
RGSK has been set up as an offshoot of Twomey Precision Engineering to manufacture the Rota Rail and skills and services are currently being shared between the two companies. The product is assembled in Cork by RGSK with some component manufacture outsourced to companies in Waterford and Limerick. Investment in the project to date has been in the order of €200,000 which has been self-funded.
The product has worldwide application and can be used on both rigid and articulated trucks. It is currently being trialled in Ireland by Musgraves which has one of the largest fleets in the country. It is also being piloted by a large bodybuilding company in the UK and has been given the thumbs up by the Transport Research Laboratory there. However, to strengthen its hand further Twomey says the company has decided to present the product for approval by the UK Government’s Vehicle Certification Agency even though this level of certification is not required by law. “It represents more time and money to go through this process, but we feel it is worth it because it is something we were being asked about at trade shows. If it’s that important to potential customers then it’s that important to us.
“Rota Rail represents a completely new market for our company, but also a completely new and as yet untapped segment within the transport safety sector,” he adds. “We have other variations on the product floating around in the back ground, but our focus now is on getting sales of the launch product up and running in Ireland and the UK and then in Europe. We will partner with large reputable manufacturers on a country by country basis in order to shorten our route to market. We do not plan to sell directly or through the internet because correct fitting of the rail is very important.”
The Rota Rail will cost €435 per side for a rigid truck and €595 per side for an articulated vehicle. “Basically, the product will work effectively on any vehicle where there is open space between the front and back wheels,” Twomey says.