Going that Extra Foot to save lives
Two entrepreneurial brothers are calling for brake testing products to be installed in buses and lorries across Northern Ireland to help save lives.
Bobby and Harry Connor from Co Down have invented 'The Extra Foot', designed to help the industry comply with the legalities of daily vehicle 'walk-around'.
The device – endorsed by local, national and international transport companies and vehicle manufacturers – helps check brake lights and can detect air leaks in brake systems. It can also clean mirrors and on-board cameras.
Failure to carry out 'walk-around tests' is illegal, and carries harsh penalties, and while the dangers of defective brake lights are obvious, air leaks can be lethal, causing the brakes to lock up automatically, leading to loss of control, jack-knifing, overturning, fires or emergency stops.
Brake safety was highlighted with this week's crash in France. The brakes are believed to have failed on the bus, which ploughed into a cliff, killing the driver.
Earlier this year the M1 between Lurgan and Moira was closed for almost two days after a lorry caught fire. The Fire and Rescue Service blamed an overheated braking unit for the blaze.
Last year Environment Minister Alex Attwood warned that safety and standards on buses need to improve after it emerged that many had defects.
"While 'only' 20 out of 480 vehicles had serious issues of roadworthiness, it wouldn't be 'only' if you were travelling on that bus and an accident happened," said Bobby Connor.
"Putting more enforcement officers on the ground is one way of tackling the issue but the driver still has to get as far as an enforcement officer before he is stopped and that can take many miles.
"No one wants to be driving around in a defective vehicle, especially one carrying passengers, and if problems are detected in the yard before the vehicle leaves, the risk of an accident is less.
"When you are on your own and pressed for time, you can't check if your brake lights are working or not. Our product means a lone driver can do this without having an extra person to go around the back of the vehicle.
"When you think how many buses or lorries are in a depot and how long it would take two drivers to check each vehicle, a brake application tool would save lots of time."
Harry Connor – who said he sold his favourite motorbike to raise capital to start the company – added: " Alex Attwood has said himself that things safety needs to improve and we have been asking for a meeting with him to discuss this issue. We've worked in the industry for many years, we know how badly things can go wrong and road safety is not something to leave to chance.
"With this device any driver can check his vehicle at any time without assistance.
"We're not even saying that it has to be our product that has to be used – we can live with that, but as long as some additional safety measure is put in place."
"We don't think it is worth waiting for an accident to happen when there is a product out there that can help prevent accidents."