Space & Innovation

Emergency Vehicle 'Paves' Its Own Road

This all-terrain truck lays down a temporary roadway for itself and other vehicles -- then picks it back up again.

All-terrain vehicles have an optimistic moniker, but the truth is that some kinds of flooded or muddy terrains are impossible for any vehicle to traverse. In certain disaster relief scenarios, it can be a lethal problem.

That's where the Trackway truck comes in. Designed by the Welsh company Faun Trackway, the truck lays down its own road when needed, then picks it back up again.

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Kind of like an industrial-sized tape dispenser, the Trackway keeps a portable "road" of aluminum extrusions rolled up in a spool that rests atop the truck's rear flatbed. When needed, the driver can turn the truck around, put it in reverse, rotate the dispenser 90 degrees, and roll out the temporary road like a carpet.

Once the roadway is in place, other vehicles in the convoy can move over the previously impassable section of terrain. The aluminum structure can be extended to 50 meters in length and support vehicles weighing up to 70 metric tons. Once everyone is across, the truck rolls everything up again and keeps on moving.

The Trackway can even work in partially submerged conditions, which makes it ideal for operating in disasters areas caused by floods or mudslides. Getting emergency vehicles to cut-off areas is one of the most common problems in these scenarios. Certain kinds of extremely muddy conditions can thwart even the most powerful wheeled or amphibious vehicles.

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The Trackway was initially developed by the U.K. Ministry of Defence and, according to the company website, is already in use by more than 30 different military agencies around the world. More recently, the truck is being deployed by humanitarian and disaster relief operations in situations where rapid access to remote areas is needed. In a pinch, the 50 meters of roadway can be unspooled in under six minutes.

That's seems like a pretty good number, relative to traditional road-building timetables. Here's a demo montage video that gives a good sense of things.