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Menace of articulated vehicles – Punch

By The Citizen
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IT has become imperative for federal and state transport agencies to launch fresh initiatives to decisively deal with the widespread deaths and destruction articulated vehicles are causing through their carelessness, indiscipline and recklessness on Nigerian roads. The current efforts being made to address the fatalities arising from the operations of articulated vehicles are inadequate, going by the rate of accidents they cause.

Almost on a daily basis, oil tankers, trailers, container-bearing trucks and tippers wreak havoc on our roads, leading to loss of lives in many parts of the country. This is unacceptable. The reign of terror by these vehicles of death must be stopped so that road users will heave a sigh of relief again. Tackling the menace does not require going to the moon to import solutions, but a review of the current laws to meet up with the growing demands the operations of articulated vehicles place on Nigeria's socioeconomic life. Anything short of this means Nigerians will continue to undeservedly lose lives to the impunity of the drivers of these vehicles.

One of the issues waiting for the pressing intervention of transport agencies like the Federal Road Safety Commission, Vehicle Inspection Offices, Lagos State Transport Management Agency, Ogun State Transport Compliance and Enforcement Corps and other state transport management agencies is to check the derelict state of articulated vehicles plying Nigerian roads. Most of the time, the vehicles are not in a good condition to ply the roads in the first place. Not only that, it is dangerous to trail them in the traffic as their tail lights and indicators are usually faulty or are damaged, a result of reckless driving and lack of maintenance. At night, it is extremely difficult to spot them when they break down because of the missing lights. Some belch black smoke. This is no way to affirm the FRSC's Decade of Action project, which seeks 'to reduce road crash deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2020.' For this affirmation to be effective, there must be action against this impunity from the very top.

Also, when these trucks are moving at night, it takes conductors flashing torches to warn other motorists of their presence. This state of affairs should not be tolerated anymore by the transport regulatory agencies. The current laws on this should be diligently enforced. The transport agencies, especially the FRSC and VIOs, should take another look at how the drivers of these vehicles acquire driving licences. Is it that the driving licence in Nigeria can be procured by just anybody, at a price? This question is pertinent because a driving licence is supposed to confer on the bearer some expertise and safe driving methods, which over 90 per cent of drivers of articulated vehicles do not possess.

State and local governments must see the issue of decrepit articulated vehicles as a menace to be confronted head-on to restore sanity to our roads. As Joe Igbokwe, the Chief Executive of the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency, said, 'The government needs to take another look at the laws that guide the use of heavy duty trucks on our roads and enact appropriate legislation to curb the recklessness of the truck drivers. Flat-bed trucks carrying containers must be properly checked to ensure their cargo is properly fastened to the beds. Many times, unfastened containers have fallen from trucks and killed people.' A sane society cannot allow this state of affairs, which caused the deaths of no fewer than 200 Nigerians in 2012 - including eight pupils of Itori Comprehensive High School, Itori, Ogun State, and 18 persons when a truck ran into stationary cars in Nkpor, Anambra State on December 11 - to continue for much longer.

As the FRSC marks its 25th anniversary, it must fashion a way of re-certifying these vehicles and those who drive them, such that unfit vehicles and drivers plying the roads will be eliminated from the highways. It might seem like an impossible task, but enforcing these basic measures will go a long way in successfully controlling the untoward activities of articulated vehicles. It must also enforce its minimum age requirement of 25 years for issuing a commercial driving licence as 'many road crashes, especially with articulated vehicles, were usually traced to motor-boy drivers, who were without experience,' according to the FRSC.

As a matter of urgency, governments at all levels must collaborate to build parks for articulated vehicles in transit. This will reduce their indiscriminate parking on kerbs, which leads to the narrowing of roads for other users. These parks should be functional, safe and devoid of alcohol vendors, whom most of these drivers patronise before they embark on their dangerous driving mission. The high rate of accidents is also traceable to the poor state of our roads and the federal, state and local governments should prioritise the revamping of horrible roads and build new ones.

Apart from enforcing the rule on the time articulated vehicles can ply township roads - as is done in many parts of the world - it is time for the government to provide the rail alternative to moving goods and products from one point to the other across the country. The simple reason an unduly high number of articulated vehicles is plying the roads is because the railway system in Nigeria is comatose. An efficient railway system will effectively eliminate the preponderance of unfit articulated vehicles on Nigerian roads, thus addressing the evil of road accidents, which ironically kills more than HIV/AIDS and malaria, according to the FRSC.