A safety saying recorded around the 1900s advised; “Every accident is a notice that something is wrong with men, methods, or material, investigate, then act.”
Arising from this, the notice by the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC) that it has begun full clampdown on unlatched containers becomes apt.
FRSC Ogun and Lagos Zonal Commands disclosed recently that the drivers of trucks carrying unlatched containers will be made to pay a fine of N250,000.
While this is a laudable exercise, most Nigerians think that the FRSC is just waking up from slumber considering the magnitude of calamities that have been unleashed on the people over the years. This is attributed to weak regulation that has permitted tragic circumstances in the lives of families.
There abound cases of unlatched containers falling off trucks and killing people. Some of them come to mind readily. Late 2015, a 40-feet container fell off the truck on Ojuelegba Bridge landing on two vehicles plying the road below. The floor of the rickety truck on which the container rested also gave way and followed suit. Three people and a black jeep conveying them were crushed to death. The driver of the second car, a white Toyota which was heavily damaged, managed to escape by the whiskers. The two vehicles were mangled under the weight of the container. The situation caused heavy traffic snarl for hours in the area with traffic officials having a tough time redirecting the traffic and controlling the number of people trooping to the scene.
Following that closely, a truck carrying a 40-feet container fell along the Ikorodu-Sagamu expressway close to Ikorodu central business area. The truck said to be ascending a hill on its way to Lagos, lost control and fell on its side. It fell across the entire breadth of the dual carriageway preventing motorists and other road users from plying the major road. Eyewitness account said the incident was one out of several other fatal ones that have become regular feature in the area.
In Lagos alone, the number of people lost from accidents caused by unlatched containers falling off is countless. Looking at the frequency of these incidents, one cannot but attribute it to reckless driving, near rickety trucks used by some truck owners and the deplorable state of some of the roads, especially the expressways.
On the Ojuelegba Bridge accident, some people have argued that if the container was latched onto the trailer conveying it, it would not have fallen the way it did. But the official defence of the FRSC was that the truck could not have entered the road in the first place if the container was unlatched. For those who read between the lines, the official reaction showed some level of credibility gap, or gobbledygook common to many government agencies when caught napping.
Discussions on the menace of trailers, tankers and trucks on Nigerian roads generally and ports access routes in particular will continue for a long time to come until the government does the right thing to restore order and sanity in the way and manner of their operation.
Incidences of container-laden trucks dropping containers on the road and preventing the movement of other road users for days have been rampant. When such containers fall, they not only waste their contents, which costs money to procure, but crush smaller vehicles with the occupants, as well as innocent passersby.
Many factors have been given as reasons for these avoidable occurrences. Most times, it has been discovered that the drivers operate under the influence of alcohol. They indulge in over-speeding and reckless driving. The physical condition of most of the vehicles falls far below prescribed standards even as relevant regulatory authorities are known to have shied away from necessary checks and enforcement. Security operatives charged with the responsibility of checking the physical condition of these trucks have been found most wanting in the discharge of this role.
They are also known to collect bribes from drivers of rickety trucks with worn-out tyres and allow them to be on the road. Even the FRSC and vehicle inspection officers (VIO), who are statutorily charged with the responsibility of ensuring that drivers conduct themselves as expected while on the road, have not been living up to expectations with regards to putting a check on truck drivers. Cases of compromise are rampant.
FRSC reported 4,017 cases of petroleum tankers and trailer accidents between 2007 and 2010. The causes of accident, according to the agency, include obstruction, speed violation, mechanically deficient vehicle, overloading, dangerous overtaking, loss of control, route violation, driving under the influence of alcohol and drug and wrong overtaking. Current statistics follow the same pattern.
Now that FRSC has decided to come out fully to arrest this hazard, Nigerians are waiting to see the threat disappear from our roads, rather than an avenue to compromise and line personal pockets.