3-wheeled fleets

Alternative vehicles have shaped themselves a patrol niche


      Strikes. Outs. Blind mice. Goldilocks' bears. The Holy Trinity. Wise men. Plenty of familiar things come in threes.

   Though it is new to the job compared with the rules of American's favorite pastime, our borrowed fairy tales and biblical references, three-wheeled transport vehicles for specialized patrol are establishing themselves within the niche three wheels at a time.

   At less than 10 years old, three-wheeled patrol vehicles have become effective patrol tools that can make up the difference where other means of transport lack. Manufacturers say there are multiple reasons why three-wheelers make sense — size, stability, maneuverable electric-powered speed and ability to circumvent greater-wheeled restrictions, to name a few.

The three-wheel platform

   Considering the multitude of tasks patrol officers perform, the alternative vehicle makers took a note from Goldilocks. A three-wheeled transportation model fills the gap between the four-wheel patrol car and the two-wheel motorcycle. For some purposes, like crowd control or campus patrol, four-wheel cars may be too big and may not safely (or legally) enter certain areas. Two-wheel units like bicycles or scooters can be less stable than four-wheels, lack visibility above a crowd, require rider exertion to operate and are sometimes ignored. However, three-wheel units address these limitations and for some beat patrol scenarios, fit just right.

   One characteristic particular to three-wheeled fleets is how the Department of Transportation classifies them. T3 Motion's CFO Kelly Anderson says the company's electric standup vehicle (ESV) is able to circumvent some of the more rigid rules and regulations to which four-wheeled vehicles are held, meaning the vehicle can cover more ground than cars and more quickly than bikes.

   "It's kind of a unique niche space in the Department of Transportation, where it's not classified as a car," Anderson explains. "[Manufacturers] can get it to market and you don't [need] all the crash testing." She also says that because the vehicles are three-wheeled, riders don't need a motorcycle license.

   Multiple vendors credit the original personal mobility vehicle company, Segway, with developing the two-wheeled electric vehicle and showing everyone that there was a market for personal transportation units.

   "Segway's been out there for awhile and they've got a really great product, but we need something that actually fits for law enforcement," Anderson says. "And so that's when the light bulbs went off that it was probably the right time to start getting into the electric vehicle space."

   Trikke Tech Inc. CEO John Simpson agrees. "My hat's off to Segway for showing us the way, [that] this market actually exists. They've done a great job in educating us."

   Manufacturers also say three-wheelers add a dimension to the patrol beat that bicycles and horses cannot; they're out of the ordinary, inspiring curiosity and interest. These factors can help police-community relations and make officers on units more approachable.

   "Say you're in a crowded area with a bicycle," Anderson says. "People don't move out of the way for bicycles. So you're out walking your vehicle. The T3 is iconic looking. People move out of the way."

   Three-wheel single-person patrollers are smaller than cars, giving officers the ability to get into spaces bigger transport cannot.

   Neil Roth, president and CEO of Xtreme Green, explains the company incorporated elements from motor vehicles while considering size and durability.

   "We decided to make an aluminum-welded frame similar to what you would do in a car, but add suspension, forward and reverse … and make it small enough so riders can still go in and out of elevators and doors," Roth says.

   Most three-wheeled vehicles offer various speeds of travel from 5 mph to 29 mph, some allowing the owner to set the top speed depending on the placement and use of the unit; for example, units used indoors for building security are often set at a lower speed than units deployed at a rural campus or crowd-control event.

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