Acklea, a division of SHB, has been instrumental in bringing the first Enhanced Customer Response Unit (ECRU) to the roads of the UK this July.
Inspired by similar technologies used on the Australian road network the ECRU is a combination of an incident support unit and a Traffic Officer Service vehicle, allowing it not only to deal with incidents and inspections on the road network but also a variety of tasks such as pothole repairs and debris retrieval.
Designed by Acklea, its build is a collaboration between Acklea and Strongs Plastic Products in Tamworth, Halls Electrics in Leicestershire and Spectra Specialist Engineering, Westbury. The result is an ECRU boasting a plastic body fitted to an extended 18T chassis. “The body can be reused and fitted to a new chassis when the old one reaches end of life, explains Mike Bowden, Acklea General Manager. “This fact alone gives it longevity, helping reduce operating costs,” he adds. Acklea has also installed a Scorpion crash cushion and VMS board that can be populated with all the Highways England traffic messages. And the ECRU also incorporates the Woodway Night Owl lighting system on top of the vehicle.
On board a Maxwind road sweeper supplied by Addex is ready to be deployed via an overhead hoist and lowered to the ground to clear larger expanses of road. The ECRU also benefits from a jet wash system that distributes water or Fuel Safe, treating petrol and oil spillages more speedily, ultimately reducing the need to resurface carriageways.
Essential equipment, such as traffic cones and signs, material for repairs and lights, can all be carried inside. And there are welfare facilities, including a toilet, sink and drink-making facilities, for the traffic experts who will travel on board to incidents and any motorists in need when they get there.
The vehicle is the first of five being phased in and ready for action should there be any issues on motorways of the area 9 network, which includes the M5, M42 and M6. They will be jointly operated by Kier and Highways England, with at least one available around the clock.
With all the specialist equipment on board and an expert response team, consisting of a Highways England Traffic Officer and a Kier Asset Incident Watchman, it puts everything needed to deal with an incident under one vehicle roof for the first time, making for a speedier response and conclusion.
“It’s good to be involved in innovation of this type and at this level, especially as it’s sponsored by Highways England and one of the leading contractors in the country,” adds Mike Bowden.