Towers knocking out lorry brakes:
Some lorry drivers are concerned about temporary electro-magnetic 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 hi-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 communications 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 UK now are type approved elsewhere in the EC.”