In the line of fire

As the number of bus fires recorded rises across Australia, one company may have found a solution to the issue

In the line of fire
Baxters has created a solution to help reduce the risk of bus fires

With passenger and driver safety at risk with the number of bus fires increasing across Australia, one company has come up with a way to help minimise these incidents.

A recent report by the New South Wales Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) reveals a 38 per cent increase in bus blazes in the past two years.

Last year alone 40 buses caught fire, creating an immediate concern for passenger and driver safety.

Almost a third of bus fires in 2015 were attributed to an electrical incident, with majority of those occurring in the engine bay.

Transport Safety Victoria also shows an increase in incidents, with the five year moving average of increasing from 3.8 in 2011 to 12.8 in 2015.

These reports are indicate buses are catching fire at a rate of nearly one a week, with fears the problem will only get worse.

Fires on buses are causing serious damage or completely destroy the vehicle leaving passengers susceptible to interrupted travel, serious injury or even the potential for loss of life.

One company has developed a concept for a device that could reduce the chance of a vehicle fire.

"When reports of electrical failure in trucks were revealed to account for a large proportion of cabin and engine bay fires, concerns were raised about the lack of protection for the start circuit in trucking and transport vehicles," says Baxters chief executive officer Scott Mitchell.

"At around the same time we were doing some work for an international coal miner to mitigate the risk of electrical fire in face shovels and it occurred to us that the circuit protection developed for them could be adapted to protect the start circuit."

The project produced a new electrical safety device called the Safetyshunt, an intelligent high current circuit protector that greatly reduces electrical fire risk in vehicles when fitted.

The Safetyshunt works as an intelligent starter circuit breaker and battery isolator that can handle up to 3000Amps.

It 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.

The Safetyshunt protects a vehicle in several ways. In the event that a significant failure occurs in the electrical start circuit of a vehicle while it is in operation, the safety shunt will protect the vehicle, advise the operator the Safetyshunt has been activated via a warning light and allow the vehicle to be navigated to safety.

In the event that a short-circuit created by 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 12 seconds. In either event, the starter relay contacts can weld together causing the starter to overheat and catch fire. After triggering and isolating the starter circuit the Safetyshunt can easily be reset by the operator.

As an additional feature, in the absence of an ignition signal (for example when the vehicle is turned off) the Safetyshunt automatically isolates the starter motor.

The device was designed in Australia and manufactured in Germany to meet Australian conditions.

Baxters have produced 12 and 24 volt models also suitable for applications in trucks, dangerous goods transport, boats, mining, earth moving and agricultural equipment.

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