Intrinsically Safe Vehicle Integrity & Engine Warning System

Underground » Transport - Coal and Personnel

Published: September 96Project Number: C4042

Get ReportAuthor: Chris Worrad | Approved Electrical Systems

An extensive survey of underground coal mines in NSW and QLD was undertaken with the intent of finding out what mines required in a Vehicle Integrity and Early Warning System and how much they would be willing to pay for it. At the same time a survey was undertaken of available sensors that would be suitable for use in the system. The common requirement of all mines surveyed was the need for a reliable engine shutdown system with adequate warning to be given before shutdown takes place. The consensus amongst the mines was that:

  • the cost of the basic system should be between $5,000 and $10,000
  • such a system should consist of plug-in modules with self-diagnostic capability to minimise downtime
  • the system be expandable to encompass a variety of other control and monitoring functions


The ultimate objective if approved by the industry would be to develop a prototype, on-board, I.S., microprocessor based Vehicle Integrity and Early Warning (V.I.E.W.) system, capable of being fitted to and retro-fitted to, a wide range of transportation and operational vehicles.

The objective of this project was to determine industry needs, produce the functional specifications of a VIEW system and search the sensor market-place for existing sensors most able to be adapted to the IS standards.

The project focused on marrying the needs of the industry to the reality of enhancing existing sensor technology to meet those needs, because this focus is paramount to achieving a successful prototype. It was therefore imperative that sufficient time be spent in defining the final product in a realistic functional specification to ensure a VIEW prototype is achievable:


Specific Objectives were:

  • to determine industry needs and requirements for a diesel Vehicle Integrity and Early Warning system 
  • to select viable (flow, pressure, temp) sensors for conversion to the IS format 
  • to determine the cost and time to build a prototype VIEW system with IS converted sensors.

The main objective of this second stage would be to develop a production model prototype of the V.I.E.W. System capable of being fitted to, and retro-fitted to, a wide range of diesel transportation and operational vehicles.

This would involve the design, manufacture, testing and demonstration of an onboard Vehicle Integrity and Early Warning (V.I.E.W.) system based on the specifications detailed in this report.

V.I.E.W. would conform to AS3584-1991 "Diesel engine systems for underground coal mines" and include:

  • an electronically based shutdown system

and have the additional capacity of:

  • giving timely warning of impending shutdown so appropriate remedial measures ensue 
  • logging of all warnings issued 
  • providing data for historically trending key maintenance indicators 
  • quick connect sensors with automatic identification and verification by the system

Whenever appropriate, display and logging of information should be on the basis of exception so the operator is not presented with information that rarely changes and is consequently overlooked.

The prototype would have to be compact, robust and modular in construction with self-diagnostic ability and repair procedures confined to unplugging and swapping out faulty modules to minimise downtime.


Industry Benefits

If developed, the VIEW system could provide the following benefits to underground mines with diesel fleets

  • reduction in breakdown frequencies through pre-start vehicle integrity checks. 

An underground mine producing 3,000 tonnes per shift at a $15 margin, loses $45,000 per shift, for each shift that a longwall move is delayed due to lack of diesel transport or road blockages by failed equipment.

If the VIEW system were able to save one shift per year per colliery due to early warning of impending shutdown then it would be worth $2.7M, to the industry (60 collieries) in one year.

  • increased availability through correctly targeted maintenance based on real-time data

Because the system would continuously monitor through the IS sensors, the operator would get a visual warning, then an audible alarm, then a machine shutdown, as conditions deteriorated.

The maintenance engineer would get a real-time history of the problem which would assist in identifying the root cause.

  • reduced costs through maintenance on an 'as-needs' rather than calendar basis.

Reduction in maintenance costs would occur through the provision of machine performance histories by the VIEW system, leading to targeted 'needs-based' maintenance. There are significant savings to be made in manpower and components by not servicing vehicles prematurely.

A 10% reduction would yield $10,000 over the life of a typical vehicle. This would equate to say, $120,000 per colliery (12 vehicles) or $7M pa industry wide (60 collieries).

  • reduction in demand for maintenance manpower through self-diagnostics and display

Vehicle-specific, historical data would be available to the maintenance engineer. The overhauler would be provided with historical data to allow problems to be correctly diagnosed and verified. Consequently 'on-site' diesel crews would not need to be maintained at current manning levels.

In time, the VIEW system could conceivably enable the reduction of manning levels to one less fitter per shift, per colliery. This equates to a saving of say, 3 x $75,000/colliery (wages + oncosts), or a continued saving of 13.5M industry wide (60 collieries).

  • reduction in overall fleet numbers through increased availability of existing equipment

The practice of keeping 'back-up' equipment in the mine and on the surface is commonplace. It is an obvious waste of capital funds, and that back-up equipment also requires maintenance which further increases operating costs.

  • reduction in emissions and fuel consumption through maintained engine efficiency

The availability of engine performance data, would allow better control over engine efficiency and therefore less fuel consumption and less emissions.

The above benefits equate to a saving across the industry estimated to exceed $20M pa



The report contends that there is an obvious need for adequate monitoring and pre-warning of diesel vehicle condition as evidenced in the User Needs Survey conducted during this first stage of the project.

It proposes that the industry should proceed to building the V.I.E.W. system prototype given the ready availability of appropriate sensors as indicated in the results of the Sensor survey.

The system should conform to the specifications determined during this first stage of the project.


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