An eye for safety

If you needed a testimonial about the benefits of accident avoidance camera systems, Kevin Hallaran could provide one.

Josh Markus demonstrates the backup camera and monitor system by Zone Defense.

If you needed a testimonial about the benefits of accident avoidance camera systems, Kevin Hallaran could provide one.

The Tampa, Fla. man was sleeping in a dumpster earlier this year when a garbage truck hoisted the steel bin and deposited its contents — including Hallaran — into the vehicle’s box. Luckily, a camera mounted inside the truck alerted the operator about his unintended cargo before he compacted the load.

The incident was an extreme one, but Josh Markus, who looks after Canadian sales and distribution for Zone Defense, said it illustrates what his company’s equipment can do. The camera system in the Tampa garbage truck came from Zone Defense.

More commonly, accident avoidance camera systems prevent vehicles from backing or turning into other vehicles, equipment, obstacles or people. They can be installed virtually anywhere, giving the driver otherwise inaccessible sightlines that they can view on a monitor.

“If someone wanted to get a 360-degree view of their vehicle, we could do that,” said Markus.

Interior cameras not only give the operators of garbage trucks — and other vehicles — a peek inside their equipment, they’re often used in ambulances so drivers can monitor what their counterparts in the back are doing.

Transport trucks, recreational vehicles, fire trucks, street sweepers, oilfield rigs, cement mixers, pickups and SUVs are among the vehicles Zone Defense has equipped, said Markus.

“Pretty much you name it, and they put it on.”

Almost all of the company’s systems have audio capabilities and are equipped with infrared lights for night vision. Images can be recorded and sensors integrated to provide precise measurements and even warnings when a minimum threshold distance has been crossed.

Cameras can be activated when a signal light is engaged or a vehicle placed into reverse.

“We do a lot of integration into different systems,” said Markus.

The cameras range from tiny units flush-mounted into bumpers to big, durable models designed to withstand conditions in the back of a garbage truck.

Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Zone Defense is controlled by Markus’s father James. James also has a majority interest in the Canadian subsidiary, with Josh his partner.

Originally from Toronto, the younger Markus spent a decade in Florida, where he worked at Zone Defense. He returned to Canada several years ago to set up operations in this country, choosing Red Deer as his base because of family connections here.

Since then, Markus has moved the business from his home to commercial premises to its current, larger facilities in north Red Deer.

“It grew really fast.”

Zone Defense equipment is shipped to a network of Canadian distributors through Red Deer, said Markus, with systems also customized here for the needs of individual customers.

“We can develop a camera system for our customers,” he explained. “That’s something that we really specialize in.”

Some equipment is sent directly to vehicle manufacturing plants.

Among Zone Defense’s customers, said Markus, are the likes of FedEx, Purolator, Lafarge, Frito-Lay, Kraft and Demers Ambulances. With the cost of an accident avoidance camera system often less than expense associated with a single vehicular mishap, the industry is growing, said Markus.

Red Deer, he added, has been a good place from which to serve this country. It’s centrally located between Calgary and Edmonton, but a less expensive place to do business than those bigger centres.

Markus, who works with two local staff members, said the Canadian operation has benefited from direct and immediate access to engineering and technical support in St. Petersburg.

“That’s been a huge thing for us.”

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