Commercial vehicle enforcement units carry scales, jacks and large tools to examine tractor trailers. Complete separation between the driver and the equipment, oils and fuels is frequently required by law. SWAT units carry breaching equipment like concrete saws, acetylene cutting tools, chainsaws and other power tools.
For these and other reasons, pickup trucks are proving to be best suited for both these unique applications. However, the interior ergonomics of pickups are often difficult because of the seating and instrument panel (IP) configuration.
Aftermarket customization is something that the big three automakers have taken notice of, and they have now decided to offer several new factory-installed options. Ford has taken this one step further with the Special Service Vehicle (SSV) options available in the Ford F150 SSV. Ford has taken a very forward-looking approach to the OEM outfitting of these vehicles for specific purpose applications and is starting to offer OEM accessories that can be fully integrated into today’s law enforcement vehicles.
Ford Fleet has heard the requests of both its Police Advisory Board and commercial trades people. It has taken a serious leap forward from all other OEM commercial truck builders with its own aftermarket upfitting product line called Ford Work Solutions
Ford provides its “smart” features for truck customers with a collection of industry-exclusive technologies for F-series 150-550 trucks and commercial E-series vans, and most recently the new Transit Connect that will help make business owners more productive and successful.
While originally intended for the commercial market, these new custom outfitting features are proving to be extremely valuable for law enforcement as well. All you have to do is compare the cost of FWS to the cost of replacing a significant piece of police equipment. In-Dash Computer
The Ford Work Solutions In-Dash Computer product, designed along with Sprint Broadband wireless (www.sprint.com), works off the same basic operating system as Ford/Microsoft SYNC. It offers the same great basic features along with many more dedicated to the user who has unique equipment requirements. Because the FWS In-Dash Computer offers these same duplicate services, when ordering Ford Work Solutions, SYNC is not generally included.
The FWS system is essentially a foundation that opens up a whole host of opportunities. One key example is crime scene investigating units or forensic units that typically carry a vast inventory of smaller evidence retrieval materials.
Maintaining inventory controls on this type of material is often difficult, but that’s where the FWS Tool Link system using RFID tags can become a complete inventory replenishing system. Like SYNC, the In-Dash Computer works with wireless Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phones, providing hands-free calling with push-to-talk voice recognition, access to user phonebooks, plus the ability to receive text messages.
Post-crash 9-1-1 and GPS mapping with directions would also help agencies that currently have to mount an aftermarket GPS on the dash of their vehicles. Post-crash 9-1-1 automatically dials 9-1-1 upon airbag deployment and provides the vehicle’s GPS location where the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) has the ability to receive celluar GPS location information. In rural law enforcement deployments, this is critical for single officer units who, if they were in an off-road, remote area crash and away from public view, would be unable to call for assistance.
The FWS basic platform foundation allows for unlimited expandability. Many future possibilities are being considered today. Aftermarket equipment suppliers are already offering siren and light controller software packages that could be loaded into the factory FWS In-Dash Computer. These controls can be displayed on the vehicle’s 8-inch screen instead of the laptop computer primarily used for dispatching and query information.
This would provide touch-screen control of the lights and siren without the installation of a separate controller head. The controller would be up in the navigation screen where it is easier to view with a glance, as opposed to looking down at a controller between the seats.
Another option being tested in conjunction with this allows the officer to be equipped with a keyless remote which, along with remote vehicle starting, would also be able to control emergency lighting and siren. Similar to that idea is the plan for a Bluetooth hand-held remote controller, allowing the officer to control the emergency lighting while outside the vehicle.
Recently, several agencies have used it to increase efficiency within their specialty units. The In-Dash Computer is perfect for those agencies that can use the smaller 6.5-inch screen, or that may consider the smaller screen for radio, light or siren controls. The In-Dash Computer offers full mobile office functionality while performing a variety of other tasks, all on a bright, high-resolution, 6.5-inch in-dash screen with a Bluetooth Slimtouch wireless mini keyboard provided by Adesso (www.adesso.com). This has a built-in USB port or SD memory card slot and a Bluetooth®-enabled wireless inkjet printer provided by HP Office Systems that could be used for electronic ticketing.
Wireless Internet connectivity through high-speed Sprint® Mobile Broadband Network provides remote computer access to dial-in administrative systems, or the ability to access a remote office. Remember that most in-vehicle mobile computing systems are closed systems designed for access to secure databases like the US NCIC or the Canadian CPIC. It is rare that an agency will allow officers access to admin systems on the same computer, so the extra navigation screen with FWS would allow access to other government sites perhaps currently restricted. Note that in consumer applications today, the Internet access is restricted to when the vehicle is stationary due to obvious driver distraction concerns.
Navigation includes turn-by-turn directions, voice prompts, and also navigation by Garmin (www.garmin.com), which comes standard with features like re-routing due to construction or traffic congestion and points of interest including local gas stations and fuel prices, restaurants, auto centers and Ford dealerships. This is ideal for agencies that deploy vehicles into rural areas and rely on retail repair shops for service due to the geographical location.
Tool Link with RFID
The Tool Link system uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to track equipment from the back of a truck. This has added value for specialty units that have an abundance of expensive specialized equipment. Traffic collision investigation units, dive teams, SWAT, and crime scene and forensic units could all benefit from this technology.
One lost piece of specialized police equipment could pay for the entire Tool Link system. Just ask any agency that has had to apply for replacement funding after losing a piece of expensive dive equipment or commercial vehicle scales. This technology enables customers to maintain a detailed, real-time inventory of the tools or equipment stored in the pickup. The system uses industry-standard, second-generation RFID tags that can be fastened to tools or other items and can read and catalog hundreds of tools or assets in just seconds.
Ford F-series trucks offer customers one of the most flexible, accessible pickup boxes in the industry, thanks to class-leading hauling capability and industry-exclusive features like tailgate and box side steps—as well as a unique technology like Ford Work Solutions Tool Link. Developed by Ford and ThingMagic with input from DeWALT (www.dewault.com), Tool Link offers owners the capability to mark and scan high-value tools, safety equipment, material inventories and other important assets using RFID tags.
When the vehicle is running, a pair of RFID antennas, mounted in corrosion- and impact-resistant housings on the inside of the pickup box, scan the box for the items on a pre-programmed inventory list. Tool Link tells the driver using the touch screen that a piece of equipment is missing before he drives away—not a day later when it’s usually too late.
The data is transmitted to a reader mounted inside the cab and displayed on the in-dash computer screen, alerting the driver if any inventoried tools are not loaded on the truck. A third antenna could be mounted inside a tool box in the pickup bed. Note that the radio frequency energy used to power Tool Link will pass through composite and plastic materials, but will not pass through metal. The value in Tool Link comes from preventing the loss of equipment, and in saving the company from inefficiencies when work isn’t done because of the lost tools.
Cable Lock – Master Lock
The Cable Lock security system was developed in partnership with Master Lock® (www.masterlock.com), the industry-leading lock manufacturer, to discourage theft of expensive tools too large to fit in the cab. Ford worked with Master Lock to deliver Cable Lock as a convenient way to secure items such as tool boxes, air compressors, generators and large power tools that may need to be in the pickup box when the vehicle is parked.
The strong, 10-foot, 7/16-inch braided steel cable is wrapped in a protective plastic sheathing and is easily woven around toolbox handles or through and around items and then locked to the truck with a cuff-style clasp. The clasp can be attached to any of the items in the box, any of the tie-down cleats, or simply clamped back onto the cable itself.
The self-retractable cable is stored in a corrosion- and impact-resistant housing mounted to the inside wall at the rear of the pickup box. The unit is spring-loaded and uses a friction mechanism that will gently retract the cable when not in use. Cable Lock is easily installed on virtually any Ford pickup truck.
In law enforcement, we spend a lot of time and money securing weapons in our vehicles; yet often we spend little or no time securing equipment that is sometimes of higher value. Think about the end of a long-drawn-out operation in which officers have been under great stress and working long hours. This is typically when forgetting equipment is most problematic and where Tool Link and Cable Lock show their value.
Crew Chief Tracking
Crew Chief, a fleet-tracking telematics and diagnostics system, offered with market-leading telematics specialist Microlise, provides dynamic location and performance data to fleet owners who need to more efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers to job sites, monitor drivers and driver performance for safety and economy, and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records.
As an added benefit, Crew Chief interfaces with the vehicle’s electrical architecture and can monitor numerous diagnostic functions, including tire pressure or check engine light codes. It can be programmed to identify user-set alerts, such as unauthorized use of a vehicle or excessive idling. The system will also provide fuel calculations and fuel tax reporting, helping fleet managers and business owners manage costs more effectively.
Fleet owners and managers often need to dispatch vehicles quickly for service calls.
The data is linked to a Web-based application, which can be used by a fleet administrator in an office or anywhere there is Internet access, including the FWS In-Dash Computer.
If you are a fleet manager from an agency that covers a large geographical area and rarely sees vehicles deployed away from the main headquarters or in more remote postings, this system is ideal. The remote vehicle health reporting can prompt garage staff to troubleshoot a problem before major repairs are required. Again, all it takes is one significant repair to pay for the entire system.
The MSRP for the In-Dash Computer system costs $1,395. Tool Link is an additional $1,120, while Crew Chief is $425, and Cable Lock is $120. The Sprint Broadband Internet setup is listed at $149.99 per month, but obviously each agency will have its own pricing based on its current contracts for wireless services.
The “LogMeIn” Remote PC Access is $50 per year, with the first two months free. The monitor system software for Crew Chief will run you $20 per month, per vehicle. Perhaps the question is not whether your agency can afford to purchase Ford Work Solutions, but whether your agency can afford not to!
Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Ford.