You put your safety belt on to get precisely that: safety. There’s really not much more to say about it. In the course of practical operations, however, things can sometimes be a little different. It has been known for Max, for example, to go zooming around a corner at 20 km/h followed by his warehouse supervisor shouting: “What do you think you’re up to? Put that safety belt on!” When it comes down to it, it’s quite simple: wearing a safety belt is mandatory in Europe if you’re not driving inside a closed cabin. Many drivers ignore this rule – with a corresponding impact on the accident statistics. Not to mention how many insurance claims are paid and at whose expense.
The development of the Orange Belt
On the one hand, we have some careless drivers and, on the other, safety is not just an annoying obligation. How do we reconcile these? I asked various Linde experts to explain the history of the Orange Belt – that is the name of the company’s smart safety belt.
It soon became clear that a brighter colour was required to enable supervisors to immediately see whether their drivers are strapped in. That’s why orange replaced black. The next point is more interesting, because you should never underestimate human ingenuity or laziness. In collaboration with its customers, Linde developed a system that detects whether drivers have buckled up their belts. A vehicle can drive normally once the belt is locked. If it isn’t, it will only move at a maximum speed of 2 km/h.
The drivers soon worked out how to get around the annoying compulsory seat belt rule: they first buckled up the belt and then sat on it to fool the system. That eventually led to an enhanced version, which also represents the state of the art in belt technology. The driver first has to sit on the seat. This activates a pressure sensor. Green light? Not yet. After all, the driver might be pushing down on the seat with his hand. So he has to move the belt in such a way that it rolls a certain distance. A special sensor actually measures the movement of the belt. And only then – as the third step in the sequence – is the belt locked. So far no driver has been able to fool this belt system. Some try undoing the belt while driving, but they soon discover that the vehicle automatically brakes to the 2 km/h speed limit. No chance!
Incidentally, someone asked during a presentation whether it would not be better to completely stop the truck moving if its driver were not wearing the safety belt correctly. Linde has made a very important decision about that: “We never stop a vehicle!” There are actually safety reasons for that. Imagine a vehicle is standing in a danger zone and the driver has to move a truck out of the way immediately. Every second then counts. Moving a forklift by hand is impossible. That’s why a driver can start the vehicle and drive away at a maximum of 2 km/h – without wearing the safety belt.
This goes much further than the situation on public roads, as I know only too well because I also regularly test new cars. Not even the latest models have anything more than an irritating repetitive warning tone (intended as an educational measure for our own protection). To that extent we can describe Linde’s Orange Belt as the smartest safety belt there is. I personally have to admit I was impressed by the effort that has gone into this system. It is rather strange that some drivers feel that wearing seat belts is a tiresome obligation. I can still well remember a visit to the Allianz Research Centre in Ismaning. Various crash tests were carried out at low speeds. Even then a heavily built driver has absolutely no chance of preventing the upper part of his body suffering a very painful impact using muscle power alone.