Unsafe petroleum tankers and unworthy roads!
Nigeria currently transports its refined crude oil products through a network of pipelines to the depots and from there, it is trucked to the various fuel dispensing stations across the country. The locally produced is grossly inadequate and so, the imported balance is trucked from the depots to the fuel dispensing stations. The refined petroleum products are dual purpose kerosene (DPK), premium motor spirit (PMS) and automotive gasoline oil (diesel) used basically to generate electricity through power generators, fuel vehicles, aircrafts, engine powered boats, speed boats and ocean going vessels. Between the refineries and the depots, a lot of products are lost through the criminal activities of pipeline vandals. The left over that is being transported through petroleum tankers on mostly dilapidated roads are trucked in basically unsafe and hazardous circumstances that oftentimes result in tanker explosions.
The road network in Nigeria is inadequate for the use of motorists in addition to their dilapidated conditions. From a random sampling carried out on the Lagos/Ibadan expressway, less than 20% (1 in 6) petroleum tankers are in good condition. From their tyres, lights, braking system to their structure, what is easily noticeable by a keen observer is a disaster waiting to happen! Same applies to the menace of containerized trucks. An informed vehicle owner never drives close to such mobile disasters but maintains a safe distance! An ignorant vehicle owner tailgates a tanker and sometimes, never lives to tell the story as a result of petroleum tanker explosions, brake failures etc.
Some have suggested a law be put in place to ensure these tankers move around, only at night leaving the roads exclusively to their usage or create special roads for them. Sometimes, there is scarcity of petroleum products in a mean scale such that when relief is sighted, nobody cares about the state of the petroleum tankers, their road menace or the road itself. All the consumers are interested in, is getting as much refined petroleum products as much as their pockets and their individual storage capacities can allow. Yet, the reality, as of today, is that the country cannot open up exclusive roads for petroleum tanker drivers only, but rehabilitate existing road networks, dualise them, where necessary to make the roads worthy of vehicles plying them, petroleum tankers inclusive. An option that makes a lot of sense to DrillBytes against the pressing issue of irregular availability of fuel is to allow these petroleum tankers move only in the night. That way, they will get to their destinations faster and if, for any reason, the tanker drivers are rewarded with the unsafe conditions of their trucks, the effect will be restricted to the driver and his crew! If less than 20% of the petroleum tankers are roadworthy, what can be done about this?
The Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC is there along with the various states’ road traffic management authorities. Their mandate is to manage road users along the lines of safety, humane driving conventions, respect for other road users and prosecution of apprehended violators among others. Apparently, their efforts are not deterrent enough to stop the carnage occasioned by ignorance and carelessness. It is the opinion of DrillBytes that a stakeholders’ meeting be called to address the roadworthiness of these trucks. A cross pollination of ideas into a workable and enforceable act by the Federal and states ministries of works, the FRSC, the various states traffic management agencies, the petroleum tanker drivers and possibly the various states assembly and National assembly. At the end of such a parley, any tanker apprehended for road unworthiness will not cry to affiliate unions to reply with an industrial strike but will rather pay applicable fines and rehabilitate his offensive truck. This way, our roads will continuously be rehabilitated, making them worthy of the vehicles plying them. That way, we will gradually increase the number of roadworthy tankers from less than 20% to much more. This way, we will reduce the number of accidents on our roads caused by unsafe trucks and increase the volume of petroleum products that eventually make it to their destinations.
There was a time when a herd of cows and petroleum tanker drivers, particularly, on Malu road, Apapa, Lagos were always struggling for right of way! Enough struggle to attract an industrial strike by the National Union of Petroleum, Energy and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG). Mobil Nigeria Limited, owners of a petroleum depot in the said location, waded into the matter and rehabilitated the contentious road to the delight of cows and petroleum tanker drivers. If we can get over that, we can sure get over this! There is no point therefore, of arresting a tanker driver for driving a truck that is not roadworthy on a road worse than the truck! To this end, funds need to be released to rehabilitate dilapidated roads, applicable laws needs to be made to deter unworthy trucks, an understanding needs to be reached between all the stakeholders on the need to play by the rules and quality oversight, enforcement inclusive, need to be carried out by relevant agencies. This is the only way to reduce the madness on our roads as it relates to unsafe tankers and unworthy roads.
Kayode Adeoye is an energy analyst from Lagos