Truckers put lives at risk with magnet scam that knocks out brakes
Published 02/06/2010 | 05:00
TRUCKERS are endangering lives by using a magnet to disable the devices that monitor how many hours they drive -- knowing that it also disconnects their anti-lock brakes.
The growing illegal practice is done to avoid being caught driving excessive hours, but Assistant Garda Commissioner Kevin Ludlow warned yesterday that it is an accident waiting to happen.
Revealing details of the latest rogue trucker scam, the assistant commissioner said the practice was "very dangerous" as the HGVs could easily go out of control and crash.
Truckers are obliged to take frequent rests from long-distance driving. The movement of their truck is measured by a 'spy-in-the-cab' digital tachograph.
However, in a bid to beat the system, drivers are placing magnets on top of the gearbox of the truck. The magnet disables the tachograph which then shows the vehicle is not moving, when in fact it is.
But worryingly, the magnet also disables the truck's anti-lock brakes, the speedometer, and can cause the gears to get meshed up and seize, also causing the vehicle to go out of control and crash without bringing the anti-lock brakes into play.
Asst Comm Ludlow, who is in charge of the Garda Traffic Corps, revealed that the practice, commonplace on the continent, is now an emerging problem here.
Already two drivers have been convicted of using a so-called interrupter device and having dangerously defective vehicles. Further cases are being investigated by gardai, he said.
"This has the potential for a major accident with serious fatalities to happen," he warned. "The very strong magnet is dangerous. The driver has no rest, the speedometer is not working so they cannot control the speed. The brakes don't work, and you could also crash if the gear box fails and seizes.
The assistant commissioner said gardai are now being trained to detect the magnet scam at roadside checkpoints being conducted with officers from the Road Safety Authority. Trucks would now be "actively searched" for the magnets.
Garda Brendan Condon, a public service vehicle inspector based in Thurles, has been investigating the growing menace posed by magnets in trucks.
He said two drivers were caught because they were driving too slow or too fast and were unaware of their speed due to their speedometers being knocked out.
Last month, a Czech driver was disqualified from driving for two years and fined a total of €5,000 after he was stopped near Mallow, Co Cork, and gardai discovered a magnet fitted under the chassis of his truck.
Similar incidents have also been uncovered recently in Limerick, Cork and Naas, while police in the UK have also encountered use of the magnets by hauliers.
One truck was caught driving at 20kmh and another at 100kmh because drivers didn't know their speed.
Garda Condon warned that drivers are well aware that the magnet also disables their anti-lock brakes as this would be flashing on their screens.