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mechanised highway maintenance vehicles means improved safety and efficiency for personnel

Mechanised highway maintenance vehicles means improved safety and efficiency for personnel

UEM Edgenta, MHA and CIDB MoU also points the way towards Industry 4.0

Dinesh Appavu Photo

Dinesh Appavu

20 Jun 2019

Up till now, basic maintenance on our country’s network of highways such as mowing the grass and cleaning the road surface has been done manually. We’re sure you’ve witnessed it, hundreds of metres of cones merging two lanes into one and personnel with grass-cutting machines on their backs going at it or even wit brooms sweeping about… exposed to live traffic.

If you’ve ever wondered if that’s dangerous for the workers or even efficient, you weren’t alone. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between UEM Edgenta, the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) and the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) will see the implementation of mechanised highway maintenance vehicles that remove the blue-collared workers from the equation and replace them with purpose-built vehicles that also improve efficiency.

The machines required for the mechanisation of these tasks comprise a mechanised grass cutter (one unit), mechanical road sweeper (nine units), impact protection vehicle (one unit) and remote-controlled slope grass mower (one unit). All the machines were acquired by UEM Edgenta at a cost of approximately RM20 million and are being trialed on the North-South Expressway, except the remote-controlled slope grass mower that is earning its keep on the LPT2.

Moving to mechanisation is estimated to increase productivity by a whopping 875 per cent whilst reducing exposure to live traffic for personnel by 88 per cent.

Prior to this, mowing the grass required 18 workers for cutting alone and three mobilisation team personnel as well as a one-tonne lorry and two vans per team. Of a typical eight-hour shift, only six is spent on actual cutting with the remaining two split between a break and traffic management (placing and removing cones and signage).

Mechanisation translates into a smaller crew of just two over the previous 18; one to drive the lorry and other to operate the arm. Following around 30-metres behind at the same speed would be the impact protection vehicle that substitutes the need for cones and signage; functioning instead as a rolling warning without the need for lane closure. This negates the need for that aforementioned hour of traffic management, meaning seven hours can be dedicated to cutting with no need for the vans.

On average, each grass-cutting worker is estimated to cover approximately 800sq m per hour or 4,800sq m a day. The mechanical road sweeper is capable of covering 84,000sq m of grass without a day or the equivalent of 18 man-days of manual operations.

The mechanised impact protection vehicle replaces the cumbersome manual traffic management for manual grass-cutting that requires lane closure for two kilometer stretches utilising the laying of cones and signages with a crew of a one-tonne lorry, five staff, 250 cones and 29 signages in addition to the safety vehicle team.

The mechanised impact protection vehicle takes on the role of a rolling traffic management system behind the mechanised grass cutters with a large digital display board mounted behind, above the retractable impact absorption structure. Crew is reduced to just two workers and no other support vehicles.

The mechanical road sweeper previewed during the signing of the MoU is a drastic improvement in cleaning speed over the current machine in use but more importantly, is now capable of collecting large debris such as the carcass of retreaded lorry tyres that are a danger to motorists and litters our highways way too much.

It’s stated that the effective sweeping speed is between 18-30kph although it’s most optimum at 8-10kph. For comparisons sake, the current suction machine’s effective speed is 5-6kph with optimum performance at an almost standstill 2-3kph. It adds up to an improvement of 436 per cent and 217 per cent respectively.

Last but certainly not the least is the creatively named remote-controlled slope grass mower that; as the name suggests, mows grass on inclines up to 55 degrees. Operated by a single person remotely, the numbers add up to improved efficiency of 525 per cent on slopes and 1,328 per cent on heavy bushes.

Additionally, the mechanised grass cutter, impact protection vehicle and mechanical road sweeper are all based on existing truck platforms that means they can be driven on public roads. Only the remote-controlled slope grass cutter requires a transporter to reach its location.

The step up to mechanisation is in line with the industry’s adoption of Industry 4.0 and isn’t limited to just the machines. Many of the automation processes are being extended to the garage operations that is being digitised for efficiency.