Trucks get new system to help protect troops
Troop-carrying trucks in the Irish Defence Forces are to be fitted with a system to protect soldiers in crashes after 40 were injured in two separate accidents on Irish roads.
A new roll-over protection system (ROPS), using roll-bars and seat belts, will protect soldiers from now on after crashes involving canvas-topped military trucks in Co Longford and on the M50.
In June 2007, 12 soldiers were injured in a road crash in Granard, Co Longford, as they sat in the rear of an army truck.
The truck was moving in convoy on the way back from range practise in Carna, near Athlone. Defence Minister Willie O'Dea then directed that military officials examine introducing a protection system on trucks. However, while the defence forces went about investigating the procurement of ROPS to equip 150 trucks, more soldiers were injured in another crash.
In March 2008, another 28 soldiers were taken to five hospitals in Dublin after a multi-vehicle accident on the M50 near the Ballymun exit as they travelled in a nine-vehicle convoy. The soldiers were heading for an exercise in the Cooley Mountains in Co Louth when the accident happened.
The soldiers' organisation PDFORRA said it was very concerned about the safety of soldiers travelling in trucks as they had no safety devices and said it had raised the issue in 2007.
However, after a report on protection systems, a tender competition was held last September to supply and fit ROPS systems to trucks.
A contract has now been awarded to Irish company Transport Component Distributors on the Long Mile Road, Dublin, worth €515,000.
Mr O'Dea, who described it as a "vitally important contract" said yesterday: "Safety of defence forces' personnel both here and overseas has always been a key priority for me. The transport of military personnel is an area that needed attention, particularly in light of the accident in Granard and on the M50."
He said the contract will be for the supply of systems over a period of three years, with 100 vehicles involved initially.
The army has a diverse transport fleet and troop carrying vehicles include Iveco, Mercedes, Leyland, MAN and Scania models.
The Army will be one of the first in Europe to equip troop-carrying vehicles with ROPS systems, along with the Finns. Countries such as France, Germany, Canada, and New Zealand still carry their troops unrestrained in trucks for training and operations.
The British Army has only recently purchased protection systems for their MAN vehicles.