Culture and Lifestyle

Trucks on Highways: A Race against Death

Every year, over 39,000 Nigerians die from road crashes, according to the Global Status Report on Road Safety. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates road traffic fatalities in Nigeria at 39,802, while the estimated rate per 100,000 deaths stood at 21.4. Findings have also shown that trucks are involved in the large number of those killed in road crashes. Most of those large trucks are incredibly dangerous, especially when a report from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has revealed that a good percentage of people killed in large-truck crashes were the occupants of the other vehicles.

This means many drivers and passengers, including youths and children, who share the road with these mammoth-sized vehicles are at risk of very serious injuries and even death.

Though some accidents are due to uncontrollable circumstances, some accidents are avoidable with proper maintenance and protocols for large trucks. 

Understanding this fact, the Corps Marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, called for an improvement on the maintenance and standardisation schemes for vehicles, as most of them lacked safety measures like lighting, reflectors, and other parts.

Oyeyemi, who disclosed this recently in an interactive session between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the FRSC, and Haulage operators in Lagos, stressed the need for an intervention from the Federal Government to ensure that truckers have fleet renewal rules while vehicles that had been on the road for 30-years should be scrapped.

The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) boss revealed that 90 percent of trucks in the country are over 30 years old, stating that “due to the age of the trucks, they frequently breakdown on the road, prolonging the days goods spend on the road before getting to their destination.”

Still speaking on the issue, Oyeyemi said, “bridges are not meant to carry fixed trucks and when we have such a scenario, we are reducing the lifespan of the bridges. Also, there is decay in the vehicle inspection system in the country; most of the trucks are not road worthy and this poses a serious threat to road users.”

Oyeyemi added that as regards the Vehicle Transit Area (VTA) project, more stakeholders’ engagement is needed to produce results and it should not be just by enforcement.

It is worthy of note that the inadequate maintenance of trucks is a direct cause of truck accidents. A substantial number of truck crashes are a direct result of mechanical failures. These mechanical issues are due to the motor carrier’s failure to conduct appropriate daily inspections of the equipment and repair failing, broken, and defective equipment. Most times, unlatched containers also fall off the trucks, causing serious accidents and death.

Braking defects are the most common deficiency that leads to truck accidents. The brakes of a truck may cease to function or may not work with the required strength because they are “oil-contaminated”. Drivers often overlook these defects even when they claim they have conducted daily pre-trip inspections.

The rule in most fleets states that when a driver does a pre-trip inspection, he must log all findings. Thus. it is in the driver’s discretion to point out or overlook a defect if he finds one. He can even commence driving such a big rig in an unsafe condition. Tyre inspections should be performed daily. Not performing these inspections will ultimately lead to a “blowout”. Motorists on the nation’s highways often see portions of blown-out tires from trucks. These are the results of inadequate inspections and a lack of maintenance.

The truck drivers often will notice that the “tread depth” is at a very dangerous level. Rather than spend money to replace the tyres, they proceed with their trip. Most times, the consequences are very deadly. 

A conscious decision has to be made by the driver and/or the motor carrier to ensure adequate maintenance and repairs. A motor carrier should be compelled to pull out a truck from the fleet for servicing for some time. Reckless decisions and indecisions are the primary causes of injury and death in truck accidents. 

The decision to fix the necessary repairs is primarily made by the driver. However, the driver may be at the beck and call of the motor carrier. Sometimes, good drivers call their dispatch officers and inform them of the need for repairs only to be told to continue driving so that the consignment could be delivered on time.

Drivers become fearful of losing their jobs due to reprimands, terminations, reduced pay, and lost bonuses. The system developed by the motor carrier that punishes the driver ultimately leads to injury and death to other innocent motorists. 

The trucking company and the driver must be obliged to follow the safety rules promulgated by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), to operate safely and prevent injuries and deaths on the road.