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Articulated vehicles, as vessels of road carnages

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OJUELEGBADespite concerted efforts by concerned agencies, especially the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), to stop carnages perpetrated by articulated vehicles including trailers, trucks on major highways across the country, their apparent recklessness still accounts for a good number of deaths recorded on road.
  
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria is the most dangerous country in Africa with 33.7 deaths (through road accidents) per 100, 000 population every year. This implies that one in every four deaths recorded through road accidents in Africa occurs in Nigeria.
  
Statistics also show that between 2007 and 2010, 4, 017 accidents involving trailers were recorded. According to the FRSC, the accidents were caused by obstruction, speed violation, mechanically deficient vehicles, overloading violation, dangerous overtaking, loss of control, route violation, driving under the influence of alcohol and drug as well as wrong overtaking.

The data, apart from also providing the contributions of each of these violations to untimely deaths, also disclosed that dangerous driving and speed violation by tanker and trailer drivers, constitutes the major causes of accidents on Nigerian roads.
 
Last year, the Corps Marshal of FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, noted that in, “2013, a total of 21,199 vehicles were involved in crashes, and 1, 495 were tanker or trailer-related accidents. This represents 7.05 per cent of the accidents. The following year in 2014, a total of 16,779 vehicles were involved in crashes, out of which 998 were tanker or trailer-related. This represented 5.94 per cent of the total crashes that year. From the beginning of this year till date, a total of 1,193 vehicles caused the Road Traffic Crashes (RTCs) in which 49 were tanker or trailer-related, representing 4.11 per cent.”


Some objectives of the summit were to sustain a safe mode of petroleum products haulage; establish the best way to check and enforce the minimum standards in tanker and trailer operations; work with the Department of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian Ports Authority, cement and flour mills and other major fleet operators, as well as, tank farms to ensure insistence on tankers and trailers meeting minimum safety standards, and the application of sanctions to defaulters.
  
At the summit, the corps marshal said other significant areas of consideration include ensuring compliance with permissible axle load by stakeholders, implementation of safe-to-load initiative (a standard to be agreed on and enforced), and the implementation of fixing of the retro-reflective tapes on trucks to enhance visibility, among others.
    
Several efforts have been made in the past by concerned authorities, especially the FRSC and a handful of state governors to curb drivers’ excesses, but either due to lack of will power or inability to follow the policies to the letter, the problem has continued unabated. For instance, in 2015, Lagos State government passed a Road Traffic Law, restricting trailers and articulated vehicles from plying roads in the metropolis between 6am and 9pm.

According to Section 2 of the law, only petrol tankers and long vehicles used in conveying passengers were allowed to travel within the metropolis between the stipulated time, with the exception of some vehicles in accordance with section 2 and 38.
  
“These exemptions are tour buses or passenger buses, fire service trucks, rescue and recovery trucks, patrol trucks, perishable farm products trucks, refuse collection trucks, cement mixer trucks, tractors and refrigerated trucks,” the law stipulates. But in the last one year, articulated vehicle drivers have continued to violate the law with impunity, causing rising number of deaths on daily basis.

 
This notwithstanding, FRSC officers have also, from time to time, train and retrain drivers, especially major fleet operators, and also conduct seminars aimed at moderating the conduct and controlling the excesses of this class of drivers. One of such was the stakeholders’ summit held last year in Abuja.
  
All these efforts not withstanding, truck drivers have continued to kill and maim people on daily basis.For instance, last year, 11 students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, were crushed to death, around the Ilishan-Remo area of the state, in a Sango-bound commercial bus, on their way home, by a container carrying truck.  
 
In September 2015, there was a fatal accident at the Ojuelegba area of Surulere, Lagos State area of Lagos, involving a container-laden trailer, which fell of the bridge and crushed two vehicles, killing three people in the process.The case of the old tollgate, Sango, on the Lagos/Abeokuta express way, appears to be a peculiar one, because accidents involving articulated vehicles are recorded on daily basis, which always claim lives.
      
On August 1, 2016, three people were killed in a multiple auto-crash, while 14 others, escaped death by the whiskers, when a fully loaded trailer, belonging to the Dangote Group, with registration number XA 488 VDY coming towards the tollgate suffered a brake failure and rammed into six vehicles.
 
Nine days after, another fatal accident occurred at the toll gate, when an Abeokuta-bound Mack truck with registration number MUS-338 XJ, suffered a brake failure brake and rammed into the NNPC filling station at tollgate, killing two hawkers.On Wednesday, August 3, 2016, four youths of the Foursquare Church, Alaka, Surulere, Lagos State lost their lives, in a fatal crash in the Ojota area of the state on their way to the church’s youth convention, when a trailer rammed into a car directly behind theirs, and thereafter ran over their car. The four died instantly, with only one survivor.
  
A motorist, Mr. Taiwo Gbenga, who told The Guardian that the incessant killings by these articulated trucks were avoidable, urged government to ensure that all traffic laws were followed to the letter.He added that all culprits should be arrested and charged to court, and their vehicles, seized to serve as deterrent to other reckless drivers.
  
On steps that can be taken to curtail the excesses of these drivers, the Unit Commander of FRSC, RS2.22 Otta, Leye Adegboyega, told The Guardian that there is the compelling need to always educate the drivers and enforce traffic rules on all roads, in order to reduce crashes and attendant losses on the roads.

He attributed carnages on the road majorly to overloading and over-speeding, pointing out that the unit has also put in place a special unit that apprehends errant motorists and summarily apportion appropriate sanction to them with a view to addressing incessant accidents along that axis, adding that the commission cannot afford to compromise its vision of eradicating road traffic crashes, and creating a safe motoring environment on the road. 

Adegboyega added that the unit also carries out annual public enlightenment campaign/rally to discuss in-dept with drivers, ways of using the road safely, and generally creating awareness.


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