Hi-tech answer to protect freight companies from crime

AN intelligence system which could protect freight companies from organised criminals is being developed in Yorkshire.

The system – called NS FRITS – will help freight companies by warning drivers about crime hot spots, bad weather and traffic congestion using official sources, such as the Highways Agency.

The information will be sent to drivers in text, graphic and map formats, using mobile phone and satellite technology.

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It is being developed by a number of public and private sector organisations including Volvo, Humberside Police, Huddersfield University, the Dutch police and the University of Hull. The project is being led by People United Against Crime, the Sheffield-based charity, which was founded by South Yorkshire Police to cut the number of crimes committed against businesses.

There are more than 6,900 logistics businesses in the Yorkshire and Humber region, with major clusters around the ports, particularly Hull and Grimsby.

David Ransom, the chief executive of People United Against Crime said: "We see NS FRITS as a crucial project in helping to boost the freight and transport industry. The benefits will be felt in many ways that help the economy, including reducing freight crime, carbon emissions and congestion."

The NS FRITS aims to improve traffic flow and minimise security threats. The development and testing of NS FRITS is expected to be completed by 2011. Nick Riley, the director of the logistics technology group in the Department of Engineering at the University of Hull, who has been involved in developing NS FRITS, said the system would help drivers to avoid areas where criminals were targeting freight companies.

Some organised gangs in Europe were trying to fool drivers by impersonating police officers, while others broke into cabs after drivers had stopped in laybys, Mr Riley said. The project costs e4.9m, with the cost split equally between the European Regional Development Fund and a public and private sector partnership drawn from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Malcolm Bingham, the Freight Transport Association's head of policy for northern England, said: "Truck crime has blighted the industry for years, and instances of serious and violent assaults on drivers are all too common.

"Drivers are legally bound to take their rest breaks somewhere so raising awareness of those secure, well-lit and comfortable truck stops that are on their route will limit the opportunities for criminal gangs to target commercial vehicles."