MDU Success in Utility Vehicle Safety Story

Major Western Utility Company Integrates Radar and Video to Maximize Safety

Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. values safety

With a service area spanning eight Northern and Pacific Northwest states, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. keeps a lot of drivers and trucks on the road. They install and repair electric and gas utility lines in cities, suburbs, and in the countryside, often in extreme weather conditions. To help their drivers operate more safely, Montana-Dakota has been systematically upgrading its trucks with PRECO Electronics’ PreView® Radar side and rear detection systems. The results include fewer rear-end and side blind zone collisions, improved safety, and lower installation costs.

Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. began searching for a better solution to its large-truck safety systems due to issues they were having with the existing technology’s failure-prone operating system.  According to Kim Hodges, who oversees the company’s fleet maintenance and repairs, they looked at a number of replacement solutions, including one that involved mounting four sensor buttons on each bumper. Concerned that the sensors would be too easily damaged in the course of a normal workday, he kept looking.

Fewer Sensors, More Powerful, Durable, and Dependable

“Instead of using those four exposed sensors, we started installing PRECO’s PreView Radar systems,” Hodges says. “PRECO puts its sensors into one ruggedized box. The sensors don’t get damaged, and the system is dependable. We’ve been using PRECO for several years and haven’t seen anywhere near the number of issues we had with our old system. And installing one sensor instead of four reduces installation time and cost.

Integrating Visual and Audible Warning Systems

PreView Plus Camera and Monitor Vehicle Safety System

“Once we saw the value of PRECO’s radar systems, we took the next step and installed the PreView Plus solution that integrates radar and cameras.”

The PreView Plus system integrates a camera and monitor with its PreView Radar system. PreView Plus supports as many as 4 cameras and 24 sensors per vehicle to provide up to 360-degree object detection. The in-cab mounted monitor provides drivers with visual information, color coded indicators and audible alerts.

With the radar and camera-plus-radar systems in place and fully operational, Preco benefits Montana-Dakota by helping it prevent costly damage to people, property, and fleet equipment; reduce maintenance and repair costs; and teach drivers to become more alert and proactive—without incurring extra training costs.

Future-Proof Safety Systems

As can be seen with the increasingly sophisticated collision-avoidance systems now standard on many passenger cars, it’s clear that vehicle safety regulations for heavy-duty trucks will evolve as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking very closely at a wide range of technologies from crash avoidance to data collection, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and speed limiters.

Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. was created in 1924 to bring energy to small farming communities along the border between Montana and North Dakota. With a motto of “in the community to serve,” the company now provides retail natural gas and/or electric services to more than 384,000 customers spread over 168,000 square miles, a service area equal to 5.5 percent of the entire continental United States.

Construction workers digging foundation

Idaho Materials and Construction (IMCCO), a division of Oldcastle, Success in Safety Story

Implementing Safety In Loud Environments

construction aggregate siteMachines, vehicles, and ground employees must work in close proximity when working on an aggregate site like Idaho Materials and Construction (IMCCO), a division of Oldcastle. There are often homes nearby.  The mixture of these elements can result in a loud environment where backup alarms become less effective and intrusive to the surrounding neighbors. Because of Oldcastle’s corporate commitment to eliminating hazards and improving operations, IMCCO contacted PRECO Electronics, Inc..

The first priority was reducing blind spot accidents. Studies show that more than half the accidents at a construction site are due to blind spots. The second priority was increasing the effectiveness of backup alarms and reducing the noise levels for the surrounding neighbors within OSHA guidelines. Finally, IMCCO is a business, so protecting the bottom line was essential. The financial toll of an accident includes downtime, repair costs, penalties, and potentially years of litigation. Of course, this pales in comparison to the pain and suffering of a co-worker or his family when there is an injury or loss of life.

A Safety Solution to Reduce Blind Spot Accidents

The solution was PreView® Safety Alert System (PreView SAS).  PreView SAS detects objects in the driver’s blind spot, then warns the driver of the object through an in-cab audible and visual alert. The back-up alarm then increases in tone to warn those outside the vehicle they are in danger. The change in tone gets the attention of those surrounding the vehicle and keeps the site noise levels down by only activating the increased tone when an object is detected.

Since installing their first PreView SAS system on a wheel loader with great success, IMCCO has continued to integrate this system throughout its fleet and expanded it to their concrete trucks.

Safety Concerns Solved

construction workIMCCO needed to solve three distinct issues: noise reduction, reduction of blind spot accidents, and different blind spot areas for each machine.

PreView Sensors are designed to detect moving and stationary objects in blind spots to significantly reduce accidents. PreView consists of three simple components: 1) external sensor; 2) in-cab display to provide visual and audible notification to the operator, and 3) cable system to connect the sensor and display. The coverage area for ICCO was set at 20’ per their specific needs.

This solved their safety issue. In order to solve the issue with the noise levels, PreView SAS was set up to control the sound level of the backup alarm.

When the sensor did not detect an object in the blind spot area, the backup alarm was active, but the volume was set at only slightly higher than the ambient noise. Once an object was detected, PreView SAS increased the sound level of the alarm to notify those outside of the vehicle of the reversing movement of the vehicle, while notifying the operator in the cab. The result was a reduction in noise level when there was no danger.


PreView sensors were 100% effective even with dirt, dust, mud, snow, fog, and the other extreme conditions common at any concrete site.

It Just Works

IMCCO saw for themselves that PreView Radar “just works” during their pilot project. Because of these solid results, they have continued to integrate PreView throughout their fleet. Find out for yourself how PreView can help your company, and start your pilot project today.

City of Bunnell Success in Safety Story

When It Comes to Safety, Pedestrians Can Become Creatures of Habit

City of Bunnell Case StudyIn his career and as director of the city’s Solid Waste Department, Mitrano says he has learned a few things. He knows that his drivers spend more than a third of their average working day driving in reverse. And he knows that most people pay little attention to the beeping sound of a large truck backing up. In fact, research published years ago by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) concluded that people get used to the sound of alarms, not taking them as seriously as they should. Mitrano says his drivers see proof of this every day.

“Sometimes you see people in your rear view mirror. They hear you backing up. They’re waiting to give you the right of way. You’re waiting to let them go by. Finally you decide you’re going to move the truck—just as they decide to try and beat you across the street. You look back again and they’re gone. Maybe you spot them on your monitor screen, maybe not. But if your radar picks them up, then you’ve got time to put your foot on the brake. And a stopped truck is a safe truck. Plain and simple.”

At the End of the Day, It’s Up to Drivers to Take Safety Very Seriously

Waste Vehicle Fleet equipped with Preco Object Detection RadarSituations like this point to another conclusion from the NIOSH report: Drivers who rely on backup beepers for safety can “lose the perception of responsibility for vigilant behavior.” Mitrano says it’s not unusual for some drivers to get lulled into complacency thinking that as long as their beeper is going off, people will get out of the way. The in-cab audible and visual alerts of the PRECO radar system make sure that complacency doesn’t set in.

Good Drivers + Good Equipment = Good Safety

Mitrano is proud of the fact that his department has gone more than six years now without an accident. He attributes this in part to the training he passes on to his drivers, and in part to the investment his department has made in safety equipment.

“I’m 58 years old, so I’m not an old guy. But I’m an old school driver. I was taught by a guy who said, ‘if you can’t see behind you, get out and look.’ That’s a pretty simple idea, right? The PRECO alert is what reminds my drivers that they need to stop, get out and look for themselves.”

Honolulu Disposal Success Story

Ruggedized and Wireless for Expected—and Unexpected—Challenges

Garbage truck with PRECO RadarEccleshall says he likes the fact that the radar sensors are ruggedized to resist harsh environmental conditions including dirt, mud, rain, snow, and ice. Originally from Canada, he was all-too-familiar with these challenges. Moving to Hawaii, he soon found more.

“I didn’t know rats could be so destructive,” he says. “A garbage truck could be full of all kinds of good food, but all the rats seem to want to eat are electrical cables. It doesn’t take long at all for them to chew through the cables and disable the collision warning system.”

He was understandably thrilled when PRECO released its new PreView WorkSight Wireless radar system. Not only did the wireless solution prevent rodents from putting his trucks out of service, it also eliminated the need to install more than 75 feet of warning system cabling per truck, and dramatically reduced installation time.

“PRECO reduced our typical per-truck installation time by more than 60 percent. When you multiply that across a fleet of more than 200 vehicles, that’s a lot of savings. Plus the wireless system eliminates the problem we’ve been having with salt corrosion. As tightly made as electrical cables are assembled these days, we still have problems when the salt works its way into the cable couplings, corrodes them, and shorts them out. WorkSight Wireless makes all of that go away.”

The Real Bottom Line

Garbage truck fleet with PRECO collision mitigation radarEVP Eccleshall has been in the waste industry long enough to know that accidents happen despite everyone’s best efforts. They happen in Hawaii, in Canada, in the United States, and all around the world.

“People do funny things,” he says. “They walk behind vehicles. They pull in behind trucks that have pulled into dead-end alleys. They don’t hear the back-up alarms or see the signs to ‘stay back 50 feet’ or ‘watch for wide turns.’ So we look for ways to get ahead of the curve, like using technology to reduce the effects of human error. PRECO’s collision mitigation solutions—especially their wireless systems—have saved us money. But in the end, it’s not about the money. It’s about safety.”

Customer Profile

Honolulu Disposal Service, Inc. is a private solid waste management company based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Incorporated in 2003, Honolulu Disposal provides collection, transfer, recycling, and disposal of non-hazardous materials to Hawaiian governmental, commercial, and municipal sectors. With facilities on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, Honolulu Disposal manages a fleet of more than 220 refuse trucks, front loaders, and other vehicles.