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Menace Of Truck And Tanker Drivers And The Failure Of Regulations

By on April 8, 2012

The recurring carnage on our roads occasioned by the by the vicious activities of reckless truck and trailer drivers and the seeming helpless posturing adopted by concerned authorities is hitting an insane level. More than ever, we are witnessing an upsurge in the collateral damages caused by these merchants of deaths on our roads who have apparently become more powerful than the State. The reprehensible activities of this group are commonplace across the country but Lagos appears to be worst hit. The Hobbesian State of Nature where life was short, nasty and brutish is a fitting parody of the state of affairs on our roads, courtesy of erratic tanker and truck drivers.

Embarking on a trip to Apapa in Lagos via the Oshodi-Apapa expressway is a nightmarish experience that no time-conscious person would want to dare. Petroleum tankers and haulage trailers are the Lords of the Manor in this part of Lagos. Two lanes of this road are permanently occupied by stationary trucks waiting to load petroleum products from the tank farms or returning freight containers to the wharf. This indiscriminate parking has caused unquantifiable loss of man hours to the economy and needless bloodletting on our roads.

The vices associated with the activities of these drivers are legion. It is the norm to park their trucks on the flyover bridges that were designed to bear fleeting and transient weight and not dead weight. Having suffered accelerated depreciation owing to non-maintenance and massive vandalisation of support utilities like railings and lighting systems, these bridges are already in very precarious states as their structural integrity is in doubt. It is pertinent to note that parts of the flyover bridge at Liverpool, Apapa have deteriorated to unimaginable level. The concrete work is disintegrating and crumbling, leaving the rods embedded in the concrete bare and rust-prone. Continuous occupation of these bridges by high-tonnage trucks is only bringing doomsday closer if nothing is done to reverse the trend.

The serviceable state of these trucks also raises lot of concerns as they are always rickety, wobbly, and in a perpetual state of disrepair. More often than not, these trucks and tankers possess malfunctioned brakes. It is a common sight to see the drivers’ assistants armed with wooden wedges that are used to jolt these carbon-monoxide emitting trucks to a halt, especially on hilly terrains. This set of road users tend to operate without any form of regulations, supervision and sanctions. Cursory observations also revealed that quite a number of these trucks do not have rear lights, indicator lights, C-caution signs and even registration plate number. All known traffic and safety regulations are observed in breach than in compliance by these drivers. The height of this seeming lunacy and criminal recklessness is exemplified by the manner these truck drivers convey unlatched freight containers with reckless abandon. These containers, usually tilted to one end, do not get properly fastened to the trucks. Cases abound where these containers fall off and send many to painful and untimely deaths. Yet, no one has been prosecuted for criminal negligence and gross dereliction of duty.

Tanker and articulated truck drivers flaunt larger-than-life character on the road. They bully smaller vehicles for right of way. Some of these drivers are usually heavily inebriated and see other road users as rodents that should cower and take to their heels at the sight of their gigantic trucks. Many of these drivers are not literate enough to understand basic road signs or communicate effectively. Their state of mental well-being is also questionable as they do not undergo psychiatric evaluation to ascertain their state of mental health and alertness given the sensitive nature of their job.

Several interventions have been initiated by the Lagos State Government to tackle this menace but to no avail. The Commissioner for Transportation in Lagos State, Kayode Opeifa has been having a running battle with these recalcitrant drivers in a bid to instill sanity in their activities but they have continued to remain defiant by circumventing all efforts geared towards the decongestion of these roads.   One of such interventions is the Inter-Ministerial Implementation Committee on Port Approach Roads in Lagos (LAPARC) comprised of men of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Ports Authority. The committee immediately swung into action and respite came the way of motorists but that effort was short-lived as the body is presently overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem.

This has brought to the fore the ineptitude of statutory bodies charged with the responsibility of ensuring safety and orderliness on our roads. The Federal Road Safety Commission appears to have lost purpose and direction. Its checks and controls are largely limited to the use of seat belts and availability of fire extinguishers in vehicles. Pecuniary pursuit in form of exorbitant charges on new vehicle plate numbers and driver’s license has become their primary and dominant concern. Ensuring safety on the roads has no nexus whatsoever with revenue generation. Little wonder that the resolution by the senate compelling the commission to suspend the egregious new price regime for vehicle licenses was applauded in many quarters.

The Vehicle Inspection Officers (V.I.O) is another near moribund-agency that has atrophied over the years. As its name implies, inspection of vehicles with a view to ascertaining its road worthiness is its major function. They reverse seem to be the case as they turn a blind eye to these rickety trucks that break down indiscriminately on our roads. Rather, they get fussy by impounding apparently well-maintained private and official cars while the terminally bad trucks and tankers continue their killing spree.

The Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) has apart from ensuring the free flow of traffic, been more involved in alleged corrupt practices, high-handedness and extortion. The agency is ridden with corrupt officers who see the flouting of traffic laws by motorists as an opportunity to make money. LASTMA’s reputation is portrayed in a very bad light, no thanks to its crop of extremely corrupt officials.

The M.O.T test which was conceptualised and executed by the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation to ensure a culture of road safety by carrying out necessary tests on vehicles has also not lived up to its billing. The scheme has been fraught with irregularities as a good number of road-worthiness certificates possessed by motorists have been found to be forged.

Concerted action is required by governments at all levels to checkmate the excesses of these drivers while safety regulations should be strictly enforced in order to guarantee the safety of all road users. Trucks that do not meet basic minimum standards of road worthiness should be impounded and discarded while designated holding bays should be provided for the parking of these trucks. The superfluous enforcement agencies should be streamlined and re-positioned for effective and result-oriented operations.

Akanimo Asuquo Sunday writes from Lagos, you can contact him at [email protected]