The Yomiuri ShimbunParts that can be used to interfere with speed-limiting devices on large trucks have been offered on flea market apps and auction sites in a spate of cases uncovered by a National Police Agency probe.
Alerted by the NPA, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has called on app and auction operators to delete the items. An NPA official said, “If the misuse of the parts is confirmed, the sellers could become subject to crackdowns.”
In mid-April, steel parts about 5 centimeters long, called “L-joints,” were put up on the Mercari flea market app for prices between ¥20,000 and ¥40,000. There was no specific explanation of how to use the parts. For those who are not familiar with them, they look just like bolts. The items were put on sale simply with such texts as “For those who know what this is, please consider” and “You can drive comfortably.”
Under the Road Traffic Law, the maximum speed limit for large trucks is set at 80 kph. Large trucks have been required to install speed limiters since 2003 to prevent them traveling over 90 kph.
The vehicle speed is measured based on the number of wheel revolutions. An L-joint is a part originally designed to adjust speed displays according to the size of the tires. If the part is attached to the transmission, the displayed speed will be adjusted in keeping with changes in the revolution of the wheels.
If an L-joint does not properly correspond to the size of the tires, incorrect speed information will be sent to the speed limiter, and that will enable the vehicle to travel at speeds of over 90 kph. The dashboard speedometer will also display a speed lower than the actual speed. According to police authorities, many large trucks that run at speeds of over 90 kph are believed to have been illegally modified with improperly used L-joints.
The act of making speed limiters dysfunctional with the use of L-joints constitutes a violation of the Road Transport Vehicle Law and the Road Traffic Law. Those who sell the parts also are subject to penalties.
In February last year, the Kyoto prefectural police arrested a truck driver who had sold such parts on an online auction site on suspicion of having assisted a violation of the Road Transport Vehicle Law. The man reportedly sold about 1,400 L-joints.
In April, the NPA confirmed that L-joints were put up on the Yahoo Auction site. As speeding by large trucks could result in major accidents, the NPA sought to have the relevant app and site operators to delete the items, through the transport ministry, which holds jurisdiction over the Road Transport Vehicle Law.
An official in charge of Yahoo Auction told The Yomiuri Shimbun, “We concluded selling [the parts] is not illegal, but we have deleted them as they could cause major traffic accidents.”
An official of Mercari, Inc. said, “We’ve removed the items and asked those who have purchased [the parts] to use them appropriately.”
On flea market apps and online auction sites, other irregular parts such as mufflers that emit excessive noise and colored films for drivers’ windows have been sold.
Last summer, the transport ministry sought to have the operator of a website that sold such mufflers remove the items from the site. The administrator of the site deleted only these particular items, saying that taking action on misused items comprehensively is difficult as it is hard to tell them from legal products.