Truck transit parks, long overdue
It is indeed inscrutable why authorities in Abuja and most state capitals have not been serious about finding a lasting solution to the menace haulage trailers and trucks have constituted to road users across the country. Have the authorities been helpless, complicit or clueless? These are the pertinent questions one can ask, especially in Lagos (nation’s commercial capital) where the Apapa-Oshodi axis of the ticklish routes now extend to even the international airport road. This is insufferable in the extreme.
There have been regular graphic reports in the news media that petroleum tankers and haulage trailers have become the Lords of the Manor in many parts of the country. Tanker and articulated truck drivers flaunt lawlessness on the road: they bully smaller vehicles for right of way and see other road users as ants. The reprehensible activities of this group are commonplace across the country but Lagos appears to be the worst hit at the moment. In Lagos, embarking on a trip to Apapa via the Oshodi-Apapa expressway and Ijora-Apapa road is a nightmare that no time-conscious person wants to dare. Reason: the two lanes of these roads are permanently occupied by stationary trucks waiting to load petroleum products from the tank farms or returning freight containers to the wharf. This indiscriminate parking has caused unquantifiable loss of man-hours to the economy and needless bloodletting on our roads.
Besides, some of the trucks on the roads are laden with containers. But what is worse, the containers lie loosely on the trucks without any screw or fasteners as such not latched on. This laxity wiped out a family of five at Ojota, Lagos in the early hours of Saturday July 8 this year when two containers, which fell from a truck crushed their mini bus by 3 a.m.Therefore, whenever a truck encounters a pot hole or a corner, the container shifts and sometimes falls over smaller vehicles killing people at various spots in Lagos.
The situation is no better on the highways as the perennial traffic jam at Ogere on the Lagos-Ibadan express way, for example, has been blamed on trucks parked on both sides of the road. In addition, in some major cities, broken down trucks and articulated vehicles have become shelters from rain and sun for miscreants and criminals. Thus, the activities of truck drivers have become worrisome for any individuals using Nigerian roads.
As traffic gridlocks and other menace occasioned by the activities of truck and tankers on our roads continue to feature, it is difficult to figure out why no one listens to various suggestions on how best to defuse the biggest headache to road users in the country. Besides, there have been some debates on whether the movement of trucks on the highways should be restricted to certain hours of the day. Not only that, others have suggested that there should be special parks for trucks and tankers to reduce the carnage on the road and traffic congestion.
Certainly, the point at issue has markedly increased the cost of doing business in the country. It is instructive that the prohibitive cost of doing business is a disincentive that has attracted the presidency that recently dished out some executive orders on the reproach.
In what appears as a strategic response to the persistent public outcry against the peril, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi recently disclosed that the Federal Government (FG) had moved to establish Truck Transit Parks (TTPs) across major cities to reduce the rate of road accidents and loss of cargo occasioned by bad roads.
Accordingly, the proposed TTP shall be in Lokoja in Kogi State, Obollo-Afor in Enugu State, Ogere in Ogun State, Jebba in Kwara Sate, and Port Novo Creek in Lagos State as an alternative strategy to address truck congestion at the seaports in Apapa and Port Harcourt. These are meant to complement the Ore Sunshine in Ondo State and the one being processed by the Kaduna State Government at the Mararaba, Jos -Tafa on Kaduna Abuja highway.
It will therefore be heart-warming if the federal authorities can ensure that TTP projects independently developed by the state governments and private investors are coordinated to meet a minimum standard in terms of quality and quantum of facilities provided at the sites. However, we would like to advise the Federal Government to restrict its role on the TTP projects to regulation and standard control. It is not the responsibility of the Federal Government to establish TTPs because the state governments are vested with the authority over land as contained in the Land Use Act.
Meanwhile, all statutory agencies charged with the responsibilities of enforcing highway codes should strictly enforce the code provisions to make highways hitch-free. They should ensure that containers are latched on by a device and inspected before take-off. Also, the law enforcement officers on our roads should ensure that petroleum tankers, trailers and large-slow moving vehicles drivers adhere to Section 15 of the Highway Code, which states that, “it is an offence for large and slow moving vehicles to allow smaller or fast moving vehicles queue behind it whenever the driver can pull over safely to make way for other vehicles.” So it is with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) provision of Section 26, which prohibits the indiscriminate and double parking of fuel tankers, and other long vehicles on our highways.
In other words, if the federal highway codes and FRSC regulations are not strong enough to deal with this exigency, the federal and state legislatures should pass specific amendments to strengthen the extant laws and regulations, notably on compulsory use of TTPs by truck and tanker drivers.
Perhaps, the legislators should revisit the issue of instituting a law restricting the movement of trucks on the highways within a certain period of the day. There are economic gains here too: Apart from reducing carnage on our roads, the TTPs will become economic and business hubs that can create wealth and employment for our teeming population. Therefore, there should be some sense of urgency in dealing with this critical, public interest project.
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