National Transport Insurance's (NTI) 2015 Major Accident Investigation Report identified non-impact truck fires as a growing area of concern representing 10.7% of large losses (losses exceeding $50,000). www.nti.com.au
And not surprisingly, when fire is involved the losses tend to be greater (averaging $170,000 per claim using the 2012 data).
The focus of this post is electrical failure which accounts for nearly 70% of cabin and engine bay fires. More specifically the operation of the starter motor and the starter motor circuit which together are probably the major cause of electrical fires.
We started looking into this issue a couple of years ago after reading earlier reports by NTI and ARTSA that raised concerns about the lack of protection for starter motor cables. www.artsa.com.au
At around the same time we were doing some work for Anglo Coal to mitigate the risk of electrical fire in face shovels and it occurred to us that the circuit protection developed for Anglo could be adapted to protect the start circuit.
The outcome of our project is the SafetyShunt. Essentially an intelligent relay & fuse that sits in the positive feed from battery to starter and is capable of distinguishing between the current spike associated with normal engine cranking and that created by a short-circuit.
In the event of a short-circuit created by, for example, a breach in the battery cable insulation, the SafetyShunt cuts power in milliseconds to effectively eliminate the chance of combustion.
The SafetyShunt will also trigger if the starter motor hangs in mesh or an inexperienced operator holds the ignition on for more than 20-seconds. In either event, the starter relay contacts can weld together causing the starter to overheat and catch fire.
As an additional feature, in the absence of an ignition signal (ie when the vehicle is turned off) the SafetyShunt also acts as a battery isolator.
Prototyping has been completed in both 12 and 24 volt and we should be able to bring commercial production on stream in a matter of weeks. What we are chasing now is some feedback and involvement from industry; OE's, fleets, regulators and insurers.
Please get in touch to discuss further.