STILL ON TAMING ARTICULATED VEHICLE DRIVERS

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Assistant Corps Marshal , Federal Road Safety Corps.

Last week I shared with you my piece on taming articulated vehicle drivers written some years ago including some of the interventions that were taken to address the identified issues by the Federal Road Safety Corps and stakeholders. Sadly more ghastly road traffic crashes have been recorded after the summit held on the 15 of June 2015 to address these national tragedies. The crash cited last week that occurred in Lagos is one. The other is the fatal crash that claimed the lives of eleven students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife which occurred at 1235hrs on 26 June 2015 at the Ijebu Ode/Sagamu road involving a truck which drove against traffic and a Mazda bus.

There was another crash involving a tanker laden with honey which occurred along the Benin-Ore road; a tow truck belonging to the Federal Road Safety Commission in Edo State, and two other vehicles were burnt. The tow truck which cost about 100million Naira was donated by the World bank to the Commission in 2014.Recall that when I did the piece on the same topic which ran for two weeks, I told you that in the first week of June alone, road traffic crashes involving tankers was sixteen with deaths put at 46 from the Onitsha crash alone. I equally told you that trailer and tanker may cause about 384 crashes before the end of 2015 , adding that if this trend is not checked, fatality from articulated vehicles crashes would be directly accountable for over 47percent of the projected crashes for 2015

I know that the leadership of both the Commission and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers(PTD) have always pledged to shun cosmetics and be drastic. Last week I ran excerpts of the action plan agreed during the summit. It is gladdening that several interactive meetings with stakeholders in petroleum product haulage was held with the Corps. This meetings brought to the table critical stakeholders on whose shoulder the responsibility of executing the action plan lies. They included, NUPENG, PTD, NARTO, Petroleum Equalization Fund, Major Oil marketers Association of Nigeria, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers, the Petroleum Ministry, IPMAN. The beauty of the summit was that almost all the stakeholders had their top leadership in attendance with NUPENG PTD blazing the trail with also representatives from Lagos, Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt Zones in addition to the technical Consultant.

Speaker after speaker raised concern over the need to put an end to the activities of miscreants or area boys who often catch on delays to vandalize trucks, especially at Idimu, Ojota and Ketu axis noting that collaboration with Lagos government is key in tackling the issue. This is in addition to the reintroduction of color coded products which determines who drives the truck and the kind of training that must be given.
They pledged for training and retraining of drivers but however raised concern on the training of articulated drivers who are not union members, advising that they should be organized like the case of PTD.

The stakeholders noted the need to address road condition which they identified as one of the factors as well as parking areas along Lagos,Mokwa .They equally gave support for the summit action plan noting that forestalling drunk driving and checking age limit were critical issues. In addition, they identified government policy mandating trucks to berth in Lagos but advised that waterways be opened so that vessels can berth at other ports not just Lagos. Other issues raised included Government refusal to raise profit margin which will affect cost of petrol to enable members buy fairly new vehicles. On enforcement, they stressed the need to improve and strengthen enforcement and challenged depot owners to clear depot environment noting that obstructions should be cleared urgently. According to them, if depot owners know their capacity and call for just the number that their tank farm can contain before calling for new trucks, this can free the roads.

On the need for vehicles to meet minimum safety standards, they called for intervention by infrastructure bank to provide funding to stakeholders. .In response to concern on the age limit of truck drivers, they noted that the elderly are mostly the one driving and therefore called for as strategy to encourage youths to go into truck driving. On the need to cut down speed, it was gladdening to know that although the approved speed limit for trucks is 75 km/ph, the union installs speed limiting device for tankers at 60

Meanwhile the Frsc boss,Boboye Oyeyemi, told the gathering that the agency is barking and biting as the Corps has commenced the immediate enforcement of minimum standards in tankers and articulated vehicles, implementation of the Safe to Load programme for safe operation of the distribution of major petroleum products. The Safe to Load Programme,he noted seeks to ensure that only vehicles that are in good condition, driven by qualified and competent drivers are allowed to be involved in the transportation of dry and wet cargoes on Nigerian roads. He said that already a safety checklist has been developed by FRSC against which vehicles that fail will not be allowed to load. Consequent upon this, the FRSC will begin the use of ‘’off the road’’ stickers on articulated vehicles that are not road worthy.
He said that depots and tank farms will be immediately communicated and such tankers will not be allowed to load at the depot or tank farm till the tanker is cleared by the designated FRSC safety officer/VIO.

The FRSC boss equally said that the development of a robust national uniform licensing scheme with the upgraded driver’s license and vehicle number plate regime with unique coding specially for articulated vehicles has been done stating that, there will be the enforcement of the requirement that each articulated vehicles is fixed with three number plates. He also said that aggressive awareness must be a maintained while retraining of truck drivers under the drivers proficiency certification scheme will be enforced by the Corps. He encouraged stakeholders to voluntarily use speed limiters even the before the rescheduled enforcement date of sept 1 2015 noting that with the revamping of Nigerian rail system stakeholders may wish to consider the efficient and cost effective option of rail haulage. Other steps includes the commencement of prosecution of drivers and owners of vehicles involved in road traffic crashes.