Irish Examiner

Firm in for the Long Haul

A start-up is targeting growth with a device which improves haulage firm security, writes Trish Dromey

TO solve the major financial headache being caused to European haulage companies by migrant stowaways, Dublin start-up Journey Protector has created an innovative device which triggers an immediate alert when a lorry’s security is breached.

Company CEO and co-founder Anne says that the device, which is now at prototype stage, will be the first on the market which can immediately and accurately detect stowaways and notify authorities on the owner’s behalf.

She said that, at present, the majority of drivers are not aware of the stowaways but that companies are subject to being fined when lorries cross borders with them on board.

“Losses to the Irish and UK freight trade in 2017 amounted to €2.3m per day directly due to the migrant situation in France.

This year, so far, at least one fine has been levied on an Irish or UK haulier every two hours — these fines cost an average of €2,000 per migrant for both driver and vehicle.”

Ms Lawlor said that by alerting authorities to the presence of migrants, Journey Protector can save the haulage companies time and money and also help prevent injury or death for the stowaways.

It was the experience of an Irish driver she knew who was beaten up by stowaways, which prompted Ms Lawlor and her husband Francis to develop the solution two years ago.

Running their own company Lawlors’ Automotive Solutions, which carries out custom car modifications, they had the necessary skills to create a technical solution to this security issue.

“Our device combines custom-designed hardware and software. It detects when security has been breached and immediately sends a report to a monitoring station which notifies the authorities,” explained Ms Lawlor.

This year, the prospect of Brexit prompted the Lawlors to modify the device so that it could be used for customs clearance, to provide customs officers with the information they require without the need to stop and search vehicles.

“This could be used to create a fast pass security which could be used globally,” said Ms Lawlor, adding that in refining the device the company has received support from Dublin Port.

The company started out in 2016 by taking part in a New Frontiers start-up programme at the Synergy Centre in Tallaght IT and subsequently secured €50,000 in Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland.

“By 2017 we had proof of concept and had our first engineered prototype built at WISAR Lab in Letterkenny and had also found a company in Shannon to manufacture it for us.”

This month the Lawlors have received the second engineered prototype which is now undergoing field trials and will be independently tested in Germany before a final commercial version is built.

Journey Protector has already been contacted by five large European haulage companies who are interested in the device and has also been approached by a company which has expressed interest in supplying it in the Middle East.

Planning for a launch at the end of the year, Journey Protector is now seeking to raise €500,000 and has already begun discussions with Angel investors.

Currently operating the company from their home, the Lawlors will move Journey Protect to the Talent Garden co-working space at DCU in September and take on a third employee. They expect to have a staff of six by next May.

“We have customers lined up to trial our product and by the end of next year we expect to be exporting to mainland Europe and also to have sales in the US and the Middle East,” said Ms Lawlor.

She said that the company has already begun carrying out R&D on a second product.

“Designed primarily with the US Border force in mind, this will allow border agents to obtain additional information from the interior of a vehicle without having to enter it,” she said.

The company’s goal is to have 15 customers in Europe by 2020 and to have a turnover of €1m by 2021.

David Lawlor