Many transport firms in Ho Chi Minh City are putting a military coat on their trucks to ease their way past traffic police.
They rent military trucks that are out of date, and get the registration and assignment statements. Then they take the number plates, put them on normal trucks that have been painted to look like a military one, according to an investigative report by Tuoi Tre.
A woman named N. in Thu Duc District has around ten red-plate trucks carrying iron billets from HCMC ports to neighboring industrial provinces Binh Duong and Dong Nai.
When they return to their parking lots, the red plates will be taken down or replaced by white ones that indicate civil vehicles.
A man named C. in District 12 has a truck whose number plate no longer exist in military records while another one carries a fake plate.
Tu, who owns a Kamaz truck with a military number plate, said he rented the license plate from a military unit for VND5 million (US$257) a month so he can carry more load than permitted.
"I just rent it by the mouth, who dares make a contract?" he said.
Some people used one registration document to make similar fake number plates for different trucks, while others even made up their own military license plates.
Early September, driver Nguyen Duy Tien, carrying tiles from Hanoi into HCMC, was stopped in the south central Binh Thuan Province for violating traffic regulations.
The traffic police then found out the truck was using a red number plate that had been erased from the military system. The truck was detained for ten days, fined VND5.4 million and the driving license suspended for 30 days.
Last month, another truck in HCMC was fined VND10 million after details in the registration was found inconsistent with its engine and chasis numbers.
The truck was originally a civil one but the registration was of a military truck.
But not all fake military trucks are fined and the fines are not major discouraging factors, and benefits far outweigh them, buy allowing the carriage of heavier than permitted loads and gaining entry into banned roads.
The driver of a steel truck on National Highway 1A late last month said: "I can carry as much as I want to. If some traffic police whistles, I only have to show the registration and my driving license. I've never got fined."
T., who owns four red-plate container trucks in Binh Chanh District, said his trucks can drive at any time, carrying 50-60 tons, so each can handle 200 tons a day.
His drivers wear military uniforms and only need to make a military salute when seeing the traffic police, he said.
Vo Thanh Danh, chief military inspector at HCMC Military Command, on Thursday told Tuoi Tre he has never heard of military trucks and number plates being leased for commercial purposes.
But Danh said the practice was "completely wrong."
Senior lieutenant-colonel Thai Cong Hoa from Military Zone No.7 said vehicles with red number plates are strictly banned from being used for business affairs, or rented to residents for any purpose.
The city military command have ordered its units to start investigating the matter.
Several transport firms in Binh Duong and Dong Nai are also deploying the same tricks, the report said.