Stopping truck drivers’ recklessness
A few days ago, I watched with dismay utter display of lawlessness and irrational behaviour by truck drivers and I had to ask myself the question: When will this recklessness and road terrorism end in our country? Many people seem to feel the same way with the attitude shown by these notorious drivers, commonly being referred to and called “killers on the wheel”. It is a known fact that trucks on Nigerian roads are habitually found to indulge in over-loading, over-speeding, carrying unsecured containers, lane indiscipline, using rickety vehicles, driving with worn-out tyres and lack safety equipment, among other offences.
These acts of lawlessness do not end there. The drivers’ penchant for violating traffic rules and regulations is alarming.
Their attitude to vehicle maintenance is scarcely anything cheering. They compromise the integrity and road-worthiness of their vehicles with impunity and in the process, endanger the safety of other road users at will. What we see on our highways are carcasses of countless tankers, trucks and related articulated vehicles and reminding us of the abuse to which our public utilities have been subjected to in terms of decrepit highways and poorly maintained infrastructures such as telephone booths, railings, electricity and bridges.
For their show of arrogance and non-charllant, many people believe that most truck drivers are addicted to the consumption of alcohol and hard drugs. Apart from their unruly behaviour, they also give the impression that they are untouchable and can bribe their way out of any infraction if they are ever caught. In fact, I have come to realise that the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) officials, policemen and even military personnel often desert the roads whenever they see such trucks approaching the check-points manned by them. This over-confidence and total disrespect for our law enforcement agents could largely be responsible for why the articulated drivers continue to intimidate drivers of smaller vehicles and in the process, cause many avoidable accidents, deaths and destruction of monumental loss of properties.
Recent and alarming statistics by FRSC revealed that within a spate of six months in 2015, the number of road traffic crashes recorded stood at 4,421 in which about 2,418 people died across the nation. While the number of persons injured is said to be 14,315, the total number of persons involved is put at 29,446 as the number of vehicles involved is reported as 7,467, attributing about 80 per cent of the road accidents to articulated vehicles.
Unfortunately, a majority of the said drivers have been found to have little or no formal education, a factor that could be responsible for why they have become used to their many deviant ways, as many regard themselves as “kings of the road”. The drivers, from what I have seen so far, are mostly very young people who exhibit all the exuberance of their ages to the detriment of many people. Therefore, the main issues to contend with have to do with attitudinal problem on the part of the drivers as well as the inability of road regulators to enforce the extant laws so as to punish traffic offenders.
On the way forward, the FRSC needs to intensify efforts at addressing the continuous recklessness by curtailing the bad driving habits as well as the negative attitude of truck and trailer drivers through its four cardinal programmes of education, enlightenment, subtle force and full enforcement through the special operation code-named “Operation Scorpion”, which is aimed at ensuring that operators of the vehicles abide by traffic rules and regulations. “Operation Scorpion,” through the depiction of the painful effects of scorpion sting, should bring about the mental awareness that will bring down the high incident level of road traffic crashes involving trailers and trucks and invariably curbing the chaotic manners that the vehicles operate on highways.
Aside this, stemming the tide demands nothing short of strict enforcement of relevant traffic rules. FRSC should be better empowered to perform its statutory duties through the provision of adequate funding thereby making it possible to restore sanity on our roads. Poor standardisation of rules, weak and compromised enforcement, as well as dubious benchmarks for certifying both vehicles and users made possible due to corruption thereby constituting a major obstacle for our road administrators to tackle.
On the FRSC’s licensing centres in Kaduna, Lagos, Suleja and Warri that are meant to ensure proper training and re-orientation of existing and would-be drivers, it is only hoped the initiative will yield fruits and make it possible for only competent persons to be certified to drive articulated vehicles. With time, more of the centres should be opened in other parts of the country, especially in the South-East. Such training and re-orientation should include psycho-motor assessment, eye and psychiatric tests as well as psychological re-orientation. At the moment, such due diligence is hardly observed. Many people still obtain their drivers’ licenses without undergoing the relevant processes. They just pay their way through and the effect of such impunity is what we are experiencing now. This should stop.
Furthermore, all tankers operating in the country should be made to compulsorily use retroflective tapes to ensure better sighting and anticipation of long vehicles when light from other vehicles are beamed on them, most especially at night when they usually break down at dangerous spots when visibility is poor. Other law enforcement agencies should also assist in ensuring safety on our roads. What they need to do, as a matter of urgency, is to desist from collecting bribe money from the drivers. Furthermore, the ages of the vehicles in an economy such as ours may be an issue, but of greater concern is the maintenance and road-worthiness. Government should not allow the importation of rickety vehicles into the country under any guise.
FRSC should put more efforts at engaging the various transport unions on the need for their members to be law-abiding and comply with the traffic rules and regulations. The commission should ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders in mobile courts for reckless and dangerous driving, speed limit violation, among other traffic offences. More importantly, the government should also ensure that our railways begin to function without delay. When this is done, most of the articulated vehicles that are seen wreaking havoc on our roads would no longer have any business in doing so.
Hence, the government should muster the political-will to tame the cabal that has made our railways non-functional despite the huge national resources committed to this troubled aspect of our economy over the years. There is too much pressure on our roads. Perhaps, that could be a more pragmatic solution to stopping recklessness by truck drivers on our roads!
• Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), firstname.lastname@example.org,@AdewaleKupoluyi