A call-taker talked a truck driver through a crisis after he rang 111 to say his brakes had failed.

The driver of the runaway truck said he was gaining speed and was overtaking traffic as he headed towards Whakatane on State Highway 2 yesterday afternoon.

The police call-taker, who wanted to be known only as Mary, said driver Terry Malone rang at 3.20pm and she spent the next six minutes on the phone to him as he careered along 6km of highway with a load of metal.

Mr Malone said his truck was fish-tailing and he was afraid he would lose control. He was unable to change gears. "His biggest concern was gesticulating and yelling at traffic to get out of the way because he couldn't stop. The first minute or two of the call is him yelling and screaming and trying to warn other traffic."

Mr Malone eventually eased his truck into the back of a car, but the manoeuvre did not help, said Mary. The two vehicles then came to an incline and were able to reduce speed for Mr Malone to change gears and pull off the highway.

He told Mary later he would like to buy her dinner.