Locomotive safety systems contribute to mining industry

Traffic and transportation engineering solutions supplier A&R Engineering’s latest project, in a three-year partnership with electronic systems designer Embedded IQ, has resulted in a horizontal transport management system designed to provide mines with an integrated system to address all their underground transport requirements. Embedded I Q design personnel have spent significant time in the CSIR Mining Division, focusing on RF communication and have a thorough understanding of South African mining conditions.

Established in 1978, A&R Engineering’s latest contribution to the mining industry comprises the loco driver information system (LDIS), the loco battery monitor and the hybrid battery charger.

The LDIS is an integrated system designed as a safety and management tool to be used on mines. The system can be inter-connected to any controller, not only on controllers designed by A&R Engineering. The system/hardware is fitted in the loco and the caboose. Signalling takes place between the driver and the guard in normal operations. When the guard is outside the caboose he uses a handheld to signal.

The LDIS has many advanced features, one of which is directional speed monitoring and directional speed zoning.

Comprehensive event logging is continuously done from which operational, utilisation and event driven reports can be generated.

The guard signals from the caboose unit or the handheld unit to inform the driver of the direction to be taken. The driver must then accept the request by pressing the ‘accept’ button on his system. Once this is done, the locomotive will be mobilised and the driver will be able to operate it only in the direction as requested.

If the driver goes beyond the permitted speed, the “slow go” feature of the LDIS warns the driver that he should reduce his speed. If he continues to travel too fast, the “no go” feature will kick in and the loco will automatically stop for a time. The duration of this time can be adjusted by the system managers.

The “no go” feature activates whenever there is a complication in the system or no response from the driver after an allocated time. This ensures that the driver has no choice but to adhere to the rules and regulations of the workplace.

The proximity detector system (PDS) is another important safety feature of the LDIS. The PDS works on a separate radio frequency to the LDIS. The PDS provides the user with “vehicle to vehicle” proximity warnings as well as “men at work” proximity warnings.

If the system detects another locomotive the system warns the driver, who again has to accept the warning on his system. The PDS then imposes a speed limit on the locomotive, allowing it to only travel at a certain speed, which is also chosen and adjusted by the system manager.

The “men at work” beacons also warn locomotive drivers about the presence and proximity of work teams working on or close to railbound equipment, preventing safety incidents.

The system uses graphical and numerical displays to represent all actions and configurations, making it simple and easy to use and interpret.

The LDIS logs and stores all information, which is then viewed as an event log, an operational report and a driver information report. All stored information is time and date stamped.

This allows mine management to view all the information about the system and the driver, including speed, deceleration, hard braking and area restrictions.

Embedded IQ managing director Ryan Lishman says the system is not manufactured with the intent of overriding the driver’s responsibilities or to try and catch him out. “It is simply a safety tool.”

The LDIS has comprehensive system diagnostics making system repair a simple and easy process by guiding technicians straight to the source of the problem.

“The livelihood of A&R Engineering depends on the survival of the mining industry. By designing the LDIS and manufacturing it to fit any controller, A&R is making a contribution to the industry,” says A&R Engineering technical director Johan van Niekerk.

Some of the leading Mining houses have already invested in the LDIS. Anglo-American Platinum Division is in the commissioning phase of the complete system and the Gold Fields group has not only implemented the system on their battery locomotives but successfully adapted the application for their diesel locomotives. Mining houses are currently investing in LDIS in an effort to improve the safety of underground transport on their mines. The LDIS provides them with information on the utilisation of their locomotives which leads to asset optimisation.

“The system is being received well by the locomotive operators, and the reason for this is that the technology used in the LDIS is beneficial to the drivers as they have been given tools, such as the visual display of speed and guard communication,” says Van Niekerk.

Battery Monitor
The cost of batteries for locomotives is a major expense in the mining industry and A&R Engineering is aware that this is a multimillion-rand investment for a typical shaft.

Together with Embedded IQ, A&R Engineering designed and manufactured a battery monitor that is fitted onto the locomotive battery. This monitor measures the amount of energy supplied to the battery while being charged and the amount of energy provided by the battery during operation. The information logged and stored by the Battery Monitor forms the basis of an effective Battery Management System for the Mine.

To help tackle the challenge of poor discipline regarding battery charging on mines, the monitor records all events (date and time stamped) from which various reports regarding the battery can be generated.

This allows the life of the locomotive batteries to be extended and efficient management of locomotive batteries. “By using the battery monitor, it is also possible to identify when the battery needs to be treated and repaired,” says Van Niekerk.

Hybrid Charger
Meanwhile, the hybrid charger is designed to charge a lead acid locomotive battery in the shortest time possible and completes the range of products produced by A&R Engineering and Embedded IQ.

The efficient charging by the Hybrid Charger makes it very energy efficient and being an air cooled device eliminates any oil spillage. Energy savings are achieved by eliminating typical transformer and transductor losses.

Training Facilities

In an effort to meet all the possible needs of their clients and tackle the challenge of unskilled workers, A&R Engineering ETD Training Centre has set up training facilities at its head office, in Welkom, and at its Rustenburg branch.

The A&R Engineering ETD Training Centre is among the few Mining Qualifications Authority-accredited training facilities and is certified to train and assess artisans, safety representatives, lamp room personnel and locomotive operators.

The training facilities are used to train people in the use of the A&R Engineering systems to ensure optimum use, as well as offer a career path to the company’s technical staff.

Moving forward, A&R Engineering plans to further develop its horizontal transport management system and continue its partnership with Embedded IQ.

“Owing to the company’s experience in the mining, industrial and scientific research industries, Embedded IQ is
the ideal technology and development partner for A&R Engineering,” says Van Niekerk.



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