Q&A with OPP officer Mike Bennett, Terra Tech Off Road
When you ask a police service what they want in a patrol car, they don’t even hesitate, says OPP officer Mike Bennett. But when it comes to off-highway vehicles, it’s another story. That’s where Bennett and his company Terra Tech Off Road come in, and his latest reveal — a beefed up side-by-side called the Guardian — shows law enforcement agencies all the different types of product they can get to suit their off-road needs.
Q: How would you describe Terra Tech?
We are an innovator in commercial OHV (off-highway vehicle) development and training, focused on the Canadian law enforcement and military marketplace. We specialize in research and development, vehicle design and testing, commercial sales, vehicle procurement and training. We consulted with the Specialized Vehicles Group at BRP over a three-year period and were instrumental in developing the first off-road vehicles offered to law enforcement agencies by an OEM (original equipment manufacturer).
Q: Why did you found Terra Tech in 2011?
My Dad was a mechanic who started working on race cars at the age of 14 so I grew up in a motorsports family. I started riding at seven, racing at 12 and I learned how to modify the machines for speed. In a commercial setting you want to modify a vehicle for survivability and operator safety as well as the environment it is going to be operated in. No one in the Canadian marketplace was doing that so I saw an opportunity and Terra Tech was born.
Q: How has your role as a police officer influenced Terra Tech?
As an ATV instructor with my agency I saw first-hand what commercial use can do to a product designed for the recreational marketplace. I started looking at the common failures the machines were having and realized that several of these issues could be solved by replacing those parts with aftermarket accessories that were of a higher quality.
Q: What is the latest from Terra Tech?
We just finished the “Guardian” in conjunction with Can-Am marketing. The off-road border patrol UTV is based on 2017 Maverick Max X3 XDS and was designed to be the most technologically advanced LE UTV (utility terrain vehicle) ever produced. The Guardian is a combination of off-road, law enforcement and military components; it is basically a rolling billboard that allows our customers see the products we recommend. We don’t modify these vehicles to win races; we modify them to provide a significant advantage in critical situations.
Q: What is the Guardian suited for?
The Maverick Max X3 is designed for high-speed, open desert use with its race-inspired suspension and drivetrain. We have modified the vehicle for generalized border patrol. However, with a few changes, the UTV can also be used in tight woods or urban environments.
Q: What makes the Guardian so innovative?
We have taken a recreational product and improved it for the rigours of commercial use. One of the biggest changes we made to the vehicle was the addition of a tactical payload bed from RP Advanced Mobility Systems. We replaced the entire rear of the car with the aluminum cargo bed, vastly increasing the cargo capacity. The UTV is safer with a custom aftermarket roll cage and Cook Sheet Metal aluminum roof. Positional awareness is covered with a Lowrance HD7 GPS, featuring Trak Maps SD Topo cards as well as a Track 24 Whisper Vehicle Tracking System. A Power Tank compressed C02 system is bed mounted, allowing us to run air tools, fill tires and even clean weapons. Communications are handled by a Rugged Radios VHF Race radio, paired to a Shakespeare Military VFH antenna. UHMW skid plates from Factory UTV protect the chassis and drivetrain, and the front bumper was crafted by FMF and holds a Warn Industries 4500-lb winch, equipped with a Factor 55 ultra hook. Whelen supplied a WSSC30 30-watt siren. Rigid Industries supplied all of the LED lighting, including an IR driving light for full blackout operations. Tire size was increased with 32-inch MRT X Rox DD Kevlar belted race radials, paired to heavy-duty DWT beadlock wheels. Lastly, weapons security includes a pair of Santa Cruz gunlocks, mounted between the front seats.
Q: How do you see something like the Guardian being used in law enforcement?
The off-road marketplace is changing and side-by-side sales are outpacing those of ATVs. I believe LE agencies will start changing over a portion of their off-road fleet for the same reasons the general public is: adaptability. A UTV can complete any number of tasks, from searches, special event support, drug eradication or tactical operations.
Q: What about agencies with extra-tight budgets?
The Guardian and our other project vehicles have been a great way to introduce new technologies that are available in the off-road world. In a time of fiscal responsibility, agencies are looking to extend the service life of their fleets, and with a few simple modifications we can help them do that. From updating an entire fleet or creating off-road patrol/tactical vehicles, we ensure the customer makes the right choices and budgets are met.
Visit youtu.be/x1LeZSRcyiA for a close-up video of the Guardian at the 2017 Toronto ATV Show.
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