Automatic Vehicle Gate Systems

Automatic vehicle gates are commonly used to control access into and out of secured areas. Depending on construction, some may also be used to control pedestrian access and egress as well. Guards may manually control access during peak hours.

These vehicle access systems have both residential and commercial applications. Larger homes and gated communities such as custom home parks, apartment and condominium complexes are examples of residential applications. Parking lots (both fee and free based), commercial plants, large business campuses, airports, truck yards, storage facilities, governmental entities, military locations, etc. are business and commercial examples.

There are really two basic components of an automated vehicle gate system. These are:

  1. The gate, or physical barrier, which blocks access or egress. Gates may be constructed from iron, wood, chain link, etc. Some even protect against ramming by vehicles as a counter-terrorism means.
  2. The gate operator which moves the gate into and out of its position thus either blocking movement or allowing the vehicles to continue through. Most of ECI installed gate operators are electrically powered and hydraulically driven.

Additionally vehicle sensors, activation equipment, credentials and readers, access control software systems, etc., may be integral to the operation, control and management.

Barrier Gates

Garage Vehicle Parking and Access Control by ECI

Garage Vehicle Barrier Gates

Barrier gates are meant to grant or deny vehicular access to a restricted area or to stop vehicles and collect tolls. They are not normally meant to stop a vehicle in motion unless they are manufactured to anti-ram specifications. People can easily cross around and even under or over.

You mostly see barrier gates used in traffic control and parking applications such as toll booths, parking garages (as pictured to the left) and parking lots, although they are also used in other areas. The barrier gate and operator are usually combined into one unit.

A barrier arm usually extends across the lane and rotates from its closed horizontal blocking position to a near vertical, even 90 degrees, to open the pathway for a vehicle. The barrier gate arm is breakaway to minimize damage and may be equipped with a manual kill switch to stop it in case of failure or emergency. The gate operator can be equipped with a UPS (universal power supply) backup and some are even solar powered. Another option includes lights.

The operation may be entirely automated or controlled by a person in attendance or remotely via intercom and closed circuit television.

Slide Gates

Slide Gate 27 by ECI Illinois

Slide Gate at AbbVie Inc. by ECI Illinois

Generally slide gates are installed inside of a fenced in area, parallel to the fence. They function as a barrier by moving back and forth across the opening access. Typically slide gates are installed at the primary facility entrance but they are frequently used to segregate areas from each other.

Slide gates are often heavy and may ride along a metal track in the ground or slide on rollers or wheels either from left to right or from right to left. Others may cantilever or telescope out.

Chains are used frequently to control movement back and forth. We must consider weather (i.e. water, snow, ice, etc.) and physical conditions in designing their usage.

A sally port is a typical slide gate application. In 2017 ECI installed a sally port at Midway Airport in Chicago. Two slide gates limit vehicular direct access onto a runways. Initially the car or truck must pass through the first slide gate. After a security inspection is made, the vehicle can proceed through the second gate.

Swing Gates

Double Swing Gate - Residential Apartment Complex

Double Swing Gate – Residential Apartment Complex

Swing gates are hinged on one side. They swing open and closed in a 90º arc (from open to close position or vice versa) like your bedroom doors. They may consist of a single arm or a double arm and swing in or out depending on your orientation.

Swing gates are typically used in residential applications for single homes, developments and apartment or condominium complexes. They do not require the same perpendicular (to the lane or road) access as does a slide gate. But installation does require enough space to allow clearance of vehicles from the swinging gate. They are relatively easier to install versus other types of gate systems.

As pictured is a double swing gate access point to this residential apartment complex.

Necessary safety requirements, including sensors, must protect both vehicles and pedestrians from damage and harm while the gate(s) operates. This is discussed more in a blog article entitled “Checking Entrapment Zones | Part of Vehicle Gate Maintenance”.

Some swing gates both lift and swing. This ability allows the gates to lift over any obstacles such as road inclines or curbs. When the gates are closed, they are lowered back to the same position so they can be mechanically locked with a pin and locking receptacle. This is shown and discussed on another blog article – “View Swing Gate System Used In A High Security Application”.

Cantilevered Sliding Barrier Gates

Nasatka Sliding Crash Barrier Gate

Nasatka Sliding Crash Barrier Gate

Cantilevered sliding barrier gates meet additional security needs required at high threat facilities. These anti-ram vehicle barriers meet K4 through K-8 ratings.

These barrier gates work almost like sliding gates but are generally considered more reliable. Instead of rollers sliding on top of the ground or pavement, they operate with rails and posts inside the fence which support the gates.

Gates can be controlled automatically or manually. They can be as high as 10 to 12 feet with widths from 12 to 24 feet. Anti-climbing materials are available, as are pickets and chain link. Specific finishes can be provided and fence lines matched.

Since they need counterbalancing support, these gates are typically 50% wider than sliding gates because. However, they do not need the lateral space as required by swing gates. Sliding barrier gates are most popular in residential or light commercial applications.

Vertical Pivot Gates

Vertical Pivot Gate by B&B Armr

Vertical Pivot Gate by B&B Armr

At times horizontal movement is curtailed and neither swing, slide nor cantilevered gates offer an adequate solution. While supported by the gate operator, a vertical lift gate rotates in and out of the opening.

These types of gates do have added space requirements. No vertical obstructions can be present in the area immediately above. They are well suited for Chicagoland’s ice and snow accumulations which might prevent other types of gates from operating efficiently.

As with other gate applications, vertical pivot gates can be combined into access controls and their devices. Two different forms of entrapment protection, a primary as well as a secondary, are needed. Back up power is available during outages.

There are numerous design and material options for commercial applications as well as residential gated communities. Varying lengths and widths accommodate most situations.

Vertical pivot gates may be the choice when there is limited space available but a gate is needed.