SpeedGuard technology enhances safety in mines


It’s the worst-case scenario in the mining industry that Kirk Petroski and his company, Symboticware, are trying to avoid with the development of their newest product, Speed Guard.

SpeedGuard is a real-time safety control system for mobile equipment that prevents operators from over-speeding in a mine. It features a small operator display that is mounted inside the cab and a controller wired into a vehicle’s engine and drivetrain ECM. It monitors vehicle ground speed, engine RPMs and park brake release.

It is simple, but effective.

If an operator is speeding over a pre-set limit, a visual and audible alarm will sound. Once the alarm has been triggered, the operator has a pre-set amount of time to bring the vehicle to a lower speed and RPM. If done in the allowed time frame, the vehicle will continue on as if nothing happened.

If the operator ignores the alarms, Speed Guard de-rates the engine to a pre-set lower limit and stays that way until a supervisor reset can be done, either manually or by remote communication.

On such an occurrence, the operator has no choice but to notify a supervisor. There is complete transparency about the situation that triggered Speed-Guard because all of the information relevant to the situation is logged by the device.

Speed Guard was built to save money, but more importantly, to save lives. Vehicles take a beating underground. Speeding with heavy equipment can result in crashes that lead to expensive and time-consuming repairs or even vehicle replacement.

The worst-case scenario would be a miner being run over by a speeding vehicle and killed.

“This device provides a safer working environment for people in the mining industry,” said Symboticware president Petroski. “It is in everyone’s interest to work in a safer environment. Over-speeding is a big issue. This is a solution to the problem.”

Smyboticware started in 2008 in Sudbury and launched a product called the Symbot, which collects and transmits engine performance and exhaust emission data, bucket weight and production statistics.

In January 2012, Toromont CAT came to Symboticware with a vehicle speeding problem for one of their main customers. The two companies had worked together with the Symbot. Toromont CAT wanted a device to stop operators from driving too fast.

The first Speed Guard unit took about eight months to develop and build. Trials were done in August and September, with the first unit delivered and installed in October.

There are now 30 Speed Guard units installed on mobile machines in Sudbury mines. It is on CAT 1600 and 1700 scoops and AD30 trucks. It is available for all OEM equipment. Installation takes about five hours and doesn’t hinder performance. It can also be linked up with the Symbot to provide mining companies with an extensive information package. Speed Guard is available through Toromont CAT dealers.

“It’s fairly generic, so it can be configured for any heavy equipment applications,” Petroski said. “Toromont asked us to manufacture a device to stop speeding. They had equipment failures and they suspected either faulty parts or poor operator behaviour. They looked at available information and believed it was the operators. They are quite satisfied with the results. The Toromont customer wants to make it a mine-wide vehicle specification.”

Speed Guard saves money by minimizing premature component failure due to operating above equipment manufacturer specifications. It also features a run-time hour meter, which counts hours the vehicle is in service, neglecting time the vehicle is idling.

The run-time hour meter counts time when a combination of parking brake release, vehicle RPM and ground speed are detected.

By better understanding actual run-time hours and corresponding engine data, mining companies are able to move toward a condition-based maintenance program that can potentially extend service intervals, leading to improved asset utilization.

Toromont knew about the excellence of the Symbot, which is why they contacted Petroski, knowing Symboticware could handle the challenge. It demonstrated to Petroski that in a little less than five years, they had come a long way and were respected in the mining industry.

“It’s a good statement about the quality of our products and service that we supply to the mining industry,” Petroski said.