Road Rage

by 'Hedgehog'
Private Eye
7 July 2006

Stacking the odds against rail freight in favour of lorries is a tradition going back at least half a century and despite all the fine official talk about cutting greenhouse gases and improving road safety, little has changed.

Some lorry drivers are concerned about temporary electromagnetic interference in their vehicles control systems. In other industries including rail, problems of this nature would trigger official investigations, suspension of affected equipment or practices and new safety rules or standards..

The official response to this disturbing fault on lorries is that new standards will be applied ...... but not until 2014. Possibly.

Long distance lorry driver Peter Orr told the Eye how his modern truck, equipped with a high-tech engine control unit (ECU) suffered brief loss of control as it passed through areas of interference: "Interference from powerful radio signals is knocking out the brakes and gearbox in my truck and others. In the last two years there's been a massive boost in radio aerial power. We've had serious issues with our trucks. It affects the gearbox and braking of 44 ton trucks, but it doesn't leave a memory in the computer system. It just says - There's a fault on your ECU"

He said the problem was acute in France but also occurred in Britain. including at a motorway service station, where there were communication masts either side of the road. He had reported the issue to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, the government body overseeing vehicle safety, in February 2005, but feels he was brushed off.

VOSA refused to tell the Eye how many drivers or businesses had reported the problem to it.

On its testing programme for interference, VOSA said:

"VOSA does not currently do any tests on electromagnetic interference for vehicle systems such as gearbox controllers. There are EC Type Approval Directives on the subject but they are not currently part of the mandatory EC Type Approval requirements for the registration of any class of motor vehicle other than private cars and motorcycles.

However part of the type approval requirement for anti-lock braking systems usually fitted to heavy goods vehicles requires that these systems only are not adversely affected by magnetic or electrical fields, although it does not reference directive standards. Many of the goods vehicles sold in the UK now are type approved elsewhere in the EC".

Which in english means that nobody bothered to define minimum standards which trucks have to meet to ensure the systems controlling brakes and gearboxes are immune from electromagnetic interference.

VOSA added: "For the future, EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) testing for all vehicle systems as well as the existing anti-lock braking system is likely to become a mandatory requirement for type approval for heavy gooods vehicles, potentially from 2014."

(article gives contrasting detail of the very stringent standards being applied to railway stock ....... keeping it out of service until all performance uncertainties are resolved)

Such are the safety standards in an industry with segregated rights of way (rail).

Road vehicles run through residential streets , pass schools and share routes with pedestrians and cyclists, but applying but applying stringent safety standards there is just too difficult, apparently.

'Hegehog' @ Private Eye

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