Many people of high caliber and prominent men of worthy character in Nigeria have lost their lives or died young in road accidents involving all kind of haulage trucks. Recently, on June 28, 2018, on Otedola Bridge, Ojodu Berger Lagos Nigeria, a fuel tanker truck exploded killing people and not less than 54 vehicles were burnt. In 2015, a haulage truck caring unlatched container fell on a bus in Illishan, killing 11 occupants that were students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, (OOU), Ogun State and the driver of the said bus. In addition, on July 12, 2016, there was an accident involving a petroleum tanker which crushed 3 cars, not less than 100 people died in that accident in Okogbe area of Rivers State.
It is also interesting to note that properties worth millions, if not billions, were destroyed in different locations across the country in accidents caused by haulage trucks. For instance, in 2015, not less than 21 vehicles, 44 shops, and 3 houses were thoroughly destroyed by a fire accident caused by a petrol tanker that fell off the bridge in Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos-State.
If one single petrol tanker accident destroyed such amount of properties, you can imagine what 2 or more petrol tanker accidents could do to the society. This may probably explain to you why sharing the road with articulated vehicles or petrol tankers still remain worrisome in the heart of many people.
According to former Corps Marshall of Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Mr. Osita Chidoka, road accident involving tanker drivers and road haulage trucks between January and March 2009 were 2,119 accidents and 301 deaths. The fact that this happened in 3 months is shocking.
With this report, it means on the average there were 23 accidents every day and not less than 3 lives were lost every day.
In addition, in 2015, the Corps Marshall of FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, at a stakeholder’s summit noted that in 2013, a total of 21,199 vehicles were involved in crashes in which 1, 495 were tankers or trailer related.
However, from the above given statistics by Corps Marshalls, it is clearly noticeable that the rising road accidents involving tanker drivers and haulage trucks and the recorded deaths from these accidents are increasingly worrisome.
Nevertheless, there are 3 reasons why high rate of accident involving petrol tankers and haulage trucks couple with high rate of deaths from these avoidable accidents remain worrisome to road users, however, here are the reasons:
Near-absence of both commercial and government driving school for articulated vehicles and tanker drivers.
Training is very important for all haulage and tanker drivers, most especially those that haul hazardous materials that demand special handling skills. In addition, haulage trucks use compressed air brake system that requires additional training and basic knowledge of proper maintenance, otherwise it will be difficult for truckers to operate such vehicles properly. Why? It is because the manner of applying brake in air brake system is quite different from common hydraulic brake system. In fact, in some developed countries you are not allowed to drive any haulage truck that uses air pressure brake system without additional training and license to operate such vehicles. However, since there isn’t enough reputable training schools for tanker drivers and truckers hence, most of them end up being trained by their master (i.e. senior driver) who may also be clueless. Consequently, we have many truck drivers who do not know simple traffic rules and road signs.
An unusual life-style of some truck drivers in Nigeria.
Personally, as an individual, I keep wondering about the lifestyle of some of the truck and haulage drivers. Some of them prefer to be on the road for more than 24 hours probably to make more money. In other words, when it is time for them to rest they hardly go to their houses to rest. They prefer to sleep on the road, buy food on the road and when they are sick they buy drugs from drug hawkers instead of going to hospital or a reputable pharmacy store to get good drugs. And at times they engaged in self medications.
In addition, some of these truckers see alcoholic drinks as a normal drink for refreshment; hence, you see them moving around with bottles of alcohol or alcohol sachet; painfully enough, they see it as normal lifestyle for them to drink alcohol before driving. What a misconception! Hence, you see many of them driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. This is highly worrisome.
More so, high level of indiscipline coupled with wrong attitude towards public safety and trespass or infringement on the right of other motorists are also responsible for high rate of accident involving tanker and haulage drivers. All of these are undesirable lifestyle common among tanker and haulage drivers in Nigeria.
Poor safety consciousness on the part of truck owners and truck drivers.
Every time I travel through Lagos-Ibadan expressway I always marvel at my observations: if you travel on the said expressway you will see quite a number of haulage truck accidents. At times you see trucks fall on the road like a piece of paper. At times you will see 2 or more trailers entering the bush probably as a result of brake failure or the driver sleeping behind the wheel. I wonder if all these trucks are properly maintained before they are used and I also wonder if all these truckers are safety conscious. Truly speaking, lack of safety consciousness among the truck and tanker drivers is highly worrisome.
Furthermore, it also baffles me when I see unlatch containers dangerously placed on an articulated vehicles, and the driver moves such vehicle freely on the road without being checked by the traffic regulatory agencies such as the Police, the FRSC and the State Vehicle Inspection Office. A significant number of road accidents on our roads are caused by unlatched containers that fell off the trucks.
For instance, on Christmas Day in 2013 a woman with her 4 children and 5 other people were killed when a container fell on a stationary commuter bus at Alaba Suru, in Lagos.
In addition, on May 21, 2014, the brake of a truck carrying unlatched container failed and the container fell on a moving bus at Toyota Bus-Stop on Oshodi-Apapa expressway, Lagos; no death was recorded from the incident but the drivers were seriously injured.
More so, on September 3, 2015, a truck carrying a container fell on Ojuelegba Bridge on Funsho Williams Avenue in Lagos and landed on a Sport Utility Vehicle, (SUV), 3 people died in this sad accident.
All the above given accidents probably would have been avoidable accidents if safety was fully considered by the truckers before they embarked on the journey. Really, if we all see road safety as our top priority and inevitable responsibility of all road users, then catalogue of accidents and deaths on our road transport system will definitely reduce. Without any element of doubt, poor safety attitude on the part of the truck drivers has increased the rate of accident on our roads.
Nonetheless, it is important to note that the number of registered vehicles operating on Nigerian roads is increasing day by day. It is also noted, that not less than 7 million registered vehicles are currently operating on Nigerian roads (Source: FRSC). This shows that the majority of Nigerians rely much more on road transport system for their mobility needs.
A senior rank officer in FRSC, Mr. Lukan U. Ukpi, stated that road transport accounted for over 75% of mobility needs in Nigeria. More so, lack of effective rail transport system and high cost of travel by air transport have increased much pressure on road transport system in Nigeria and as a result of this, hardly will you see a day growing old without occurrence of road accident on our national roads.
Since majority of Nigerians depend on road transportation for their mobility, hence, there is an urgent need to tackle the high rate of accident and death caused by haulage trucks and petroleum tankers. Government should encourage and establish more driving schools for trucks and haulage drivers; the unusual life style of truck drivers should also be checked; minimum safety standard and appropriate sanction for default must not be compromised. These among others are the ways to reduce catalogue of unwanted accidents and avoidable deaths caused by haulage trucks and tanker drivers on our roads, otherwise, sharing roads with them may be hellish.