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New hot spot detection system prevents vehicle fires in highway tunnels
Published:  09 December, 2013

The new Hot Spot Detector system from SICK can prevent catastrophic vehicle fires in highway tunnels and help avoid loss of life, freight and vehicles as well as the immense cost of closure and reconstruction. 

Based on the SICK LMS511 laser sensor with the TIC 102 profiling system and integrated with thermal imaging cameras, the SICK Hot Spot Detector detects potentially dangerous situations in free-flow traffic so a suspect vehicle can be diverted before entering the tunnel.

 ‘Some of the most calamitous disasters have happened on major highways, where a vehicle fire has trapped people in a tunnel, subject to heat and poisonous smoke, with great difficulty in escaping,’ comments Gary Young, SICK (UK) traffic management segment manager.

‘The new system proved its potential within a week of the first installation in Austria in May 2013, where an overheating brake on a truck was picked up at the Karawanks Tunnel. On inspection, the truck also had two other cracked discs and was prevented from entering the tunnel.’

Developed by SICK’s Swiss subsidiary ECTN AG, the new Hot Spot Detector is able to detect potentially dangerous overheating on chassis or cargo in virtually any type of vehicle, from buses and low loaders to high sided trucks and tankers.

Every vehicle greater than 7.5 tons is guided into the lane where the Hot Spot detector is sited before entering the tunnel. Here, while the vehicle is moving freely, the laser sensor measures it in 3D and the thermal imaging cameras create a thermal profile of it.

The combined 3D thermal image is assessed against one of 28 categories, which each have the approved thermal thresholds for specific parts in locations appropriate to that class, including exhaust system, load, brakes, wheel bearings, engine etc. Any significant deviation from a normal temperature will alert the tunnel police who can pull the vehicle over and implement a thorough inspection.

The SICK Hot Spot Detector is an all weather IP66 protected system ensuring it offers assurance against fire hazard in all weathers from -250C to +550C, day and night. As many road tunnels are found in mountainous regions, with snow, low cloud and rain, or close to rivers and estuaries with fog and spray, resistance to environmental conditions is important.