On June 26, 2015, some students of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago -Iwoye, Ogun State died when an unlatched container fell on the Toyota Hiace bus conveying them to Lagos. The accident occurred at Shagamu section of the Lagos/Benin Expressway while the truck’s driver who was going against traffic tried to avoid a bad portion of the road. In May, one person was injured when a 20ft. container loaded with vehicle spare parts fell off a truck, destroying a commercial bus, popularly called “Danfo’’ and a black Nissan Xterra Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).
The 20ft. container also destroyed a tricycle popularly called “Keke Marwa’’ at Olosha Bus Stop on Agege Motor Road, Mushin in Lagos metropolis. The accident caused heavy traffic, which lasted for over five hours. Also, on April 25 this year, a container- laden truck fell on two vehicles at Agric Bus Stop, Ikorodu, Lagos and killing four people. These are just few of the many incidents of unlatched containers falling off trucks and claiming several lives across the country. Motorists and pedestrians alike have witnessed a rise in the number of containers not properly latched to trucks, which fall on daily basis on our highways, especially the Apapa- Oshodi Expressway in Lagos.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and other road traffic management agencies have continued to blame road mishaps on bad roads and human error. In October 2014, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) kicked off a strict enforcement of minimum standards for trucks operating in the nation’s seaports for safety. The enforcement was, however, short-lived as some clearing agents explained that it gave room for shortage of cargo and consequently led to congestion.
The initiative to enforce the minimum standards by truck owners was overwhelmed with complaints by transporters who requested for more time to put their trucks in good conditions. Some clearing agents said the NPA’s move would lead to shortage of operational trucks to move cargoes out of the ports, adding that it might also result to congestion at the port. The resistance, therefore, forced the NPA to relax the minimum standards enforcement and take to awareness campaigns on the need for operational trucks to be in good conditions. The NPA also came up with the idea of having an effective rail system from the port to the hinterlands to move bulk cargo, rather than moving containers by road which had been overstretched.
Chief Remi Ogungbemi, the Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), blamed the incessant falling of containers from trucks to overloading and the deplorable roads. He said the situation had made haulage business dangerous along the highways. Ogungbemi also said that the use of dilapidated trucks was a challenge that must be addressed considering the hazards it posed. He also blamed the problem on lack of weighbridges and the negative attitude of some customers. According to him, there are no weighbridges to give the exact weight of the truck and what it should carry.
“The problem is further compounded with the attitude of some customers who take advantage of the absence of weighbridges to declare false weights,’’ the AMATO chairman said. He, however, said that the association had continued to hold refresher driving lessons for its members in order to educate the drivers on the need to be courteous while driving. Ogungbemi said they had continued to train the drivers under their control to understand the dangers and repercussion involved in reckless driving. He said that “the age of a truck does not matter but the maintenance,’’ According to him, the maintenance should also involve very effective brake systems and good lights.
For Chief Kunle Folarin, the Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC), the problem lies with the cargo transportation system which is a mono mode; that is by road. Folarin said the mono transportation system had overstretched its capacity implying that the roads are overstretched with the attendant related challenges which had subjected containers to falling off trucks. “Cargoes haulage are handled in the ports, particularly delivery on trucks in a mono mode transportation system.
“There is no inter-modal delivery process in the port system; there are no railway connections in most of the ports. “In one or two ports where they exist, they are at best operating below 10 per cent capacity. “But when you look at the road network that we have, that exit from the corridors of the ports, then we know that a danger has been created from inception.
“From the time the cargo leaves the port environment it is competing with municipal traffic like fuel tankers and other vehicles,’’ the NPCC chairman said. Folarin said this made the trucks open to the difficulties on failed roads with pot holes that are endemic in the corridors of the ports until they leave the municipal roads to the highways. He suggested that solutions could start with the introduction of multi-modal transport to and from the ports.
“The rail connection must be stepped up and it must be designed and presented in a way that it will take up to 60 per cent of the cargoes delivered from the port,’’ he said. Folarin said there was no reason why barges could not take containers to bonded warehouses instead of competing with other trucks on the municipal roads. Mr Jonathan Nicol, President, Shippers’ Association, Lagos State, said it was wicked of some of the truck owners to load containers without the container hooks.
“Owners of such containers should be prosecuted. Such trucks do not meet the required standard and should not enter the ports,’’ Nicol said. According to him, the safety of the goods are threatened without a proper carriage facility. And assuming the container is loaded with glassware, the importer will lose the whole content in the event of an accident.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) will soon start impounding articulated vehicles and prosecuting truck drivers over improper lading of containers on articulated vehicles. The FRSC Zonal Commander, Zone Two, comprising Lagos and Ogun States, Mr Eseobung Akpabio, made the disclosure at a recent meeting with members of the association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO at his Ojodu office. According to Akpabio, the corps is worried over the high incidence of deaths resulting from fallen trucks and containers and has decided to meet with members of AMATO to find solution to the problem. In line with suggestions made by experts, there should be strong regulations and control on the type of trucks that service the ports.
They also stressed the need to instal weighbridges in the ports in order to know the weight of a cargo and the capacity of the truck that could carry it. “Some of the trucks have definitely outlived their usefulness, they cannot carry the weight which is put on them. “If there are weighbridges, they will show that these trucks must not be allowed to carry the cargo. “There should be surveillance along the roads to ensure compliance with the safety measures that must be installed in the trucks,’’ Akpabio said. There is need for an effective periodic vehicle inspection programme has commenced to provide insight concerning who will administer it. The programme may include management of service providers, media communication, corporate and social responsibility and quality assurance. (NAN FEATURES)