“Smart” machine selects right wash for trentbarton Buses

The trentbarton Red Arrow

Technology that’s more often associated with tracking down cars or collecting congestion charges is being put to a novel use at a Derby bus depot – ensuring that vehicles are properly cleaned.

Smith Brothers & Webb has turned one of its Britannia brand of automated bus washing systems into a “super-smart” machine by fitting it with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

The Warwickshire-based manufacturer came up with the idea after bus operator trentbarton ordered nine new coaches for its flagship Red Arrow express service, which runs between Derby and Nottingham.

Trentbarton is keen to ensure none of the expensive coaches are damaged by being accidentally put through the wrong wash cycle. Handily, the ANPR camera provides a solution.

Steve Davy, chief group engineer at trentbarton, said: “It’s totally automatic – when a bus comes up to the wash the ANPR reads the number plate and then decides whether it’s a standard vehicle or whether it’s one of our new red arrow coaches and selects the right programme.

“It takes out all the room for human error. We have invested nearly £3 million in our new buses – we can’t afford to have anyone forget and push the wrong button. We can now put buses through in any random order and they will get the right wash.”

The system has been installed at trentbarton’s Meadow Road depot in Derby. The ANPR cameras are linked to a computerised database that knows all of the fleet’s number plates and which buses they represent.

Andy Barracliffe, director of Britannia Washing Systems, said: “We are always looking for ways to help our customers keep their fleets in a first-class condition and we are delighted to have been able to help trentbarton with the ANPR camera solution.

“This super-smart solution will select the right wash first time, every time. We look forward to rolling it out for other customers who may have similar challenges.”

The new single deck coaches are more than six feet longer, and eight inches wider than the rest of trentbarton’s fleet. Their gull-wing mirrors are susceptible to damage on a normal wash setting and would cost more than £1,000 a time to replace.