Killer Containers: Why they Crush Nigerians Everyday

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    Almost every day, Nigerians are being crushed to death on the roads by freight containers. Between January and June this year, not less than 20 cases of fallen containers were reported in different parts of the country. The latest incident occurred on June 26, 2015 at Ilisan-Remo, close to Sagamu, where over 12 persons, including students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye died, when a container fell on the passenger-bus they were travelling in. In this special report, OLAOLU BILAU highlights the factors responsible for the growing incidences of crashes resulting from fallen freight containers and identifies a temporary solution to the menace…

    Following the latest incident in Sagamu, officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), at the nation’s capital, Abuja, met with stakeholders in the road haulage sector. Representatives of National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and National Union of Petroleum Employees and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) among others attended.

    Speaking on the effort of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to bring sanity to the haulage sector, Corps Marshal of the Commission, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi said: “Since 2007 when our findings showed that articulated vehicles accounted for 40 percent of road traffic crashes, we have not relented in our efforts to reverse this trend”.

    According to him, the FRSC was worried about the recent crashes involving operators in the sector and he in the light of the Sagamu incident, he ordered his men to thenceforth impound and seize unlashed container trucks.

    Lashing of a container to a truck is a basic safety standard

    Lashing means fastening the container to the truck that will convey it (container) to prevent the container from falling off while in transit. According to reports, the container on the truck in the Sagamu incident was unlashed.

    Besides lashing of containers, which is a basic safety standard requirement, there are other factors responsible for the growing number of crashes from containers.

    According to Chigozie Chikere, a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics

    & Transport and Rector, Emdee Shipping & Maritime College, Apapa, Lagos, many of the trucks that convey containers from the seaports to the hinterland are not in good condition.

    Chikere noted that in May last year, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), complained to truck owners under the aegis of Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMARTO about the rickety condition of trucks plying the ports.

    ‘No one bothers about the road-worthiness of the trucks’

    The logistics expert also observed that the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), though, usually blame bad roads for container crashes were not really doing their jobs.

    “What would make the VIO to blame every truck mishap on bad roads when it is obvious that many of the trucks, plying the roads are in bad shape structurally and otherwise?

    “The VIO’s cannot absolve itself of corruption otherwise, what would embolden a trucker to put on the road trucks whose road-worthiness is in doubt?

    “The chronic underperformance of VIO’s Inspection and Maintenance Unit and the resulting high casualty rate due to falling freight containers on our highways is worrisome,” Chikere said.

    Chikere was absolutely right in his indictment of the vehicle inspection officers because the VIOs, like other law enforcement agencies in the country, have failed in their statutory duty of ensuring that only trucks that are road-worthy and would not endanger the lives of other road users are allowed to ply the roads.

    Bad road is also a major cause of container crashes in the country

    In an attempt to avoid container-carrying trucks on a road that was no longer motor-able, road -users decided to drive against traffic, and this also results into more crashes.

    It has also been observed that since the rains began, Lagos highways have witnessed an unprecedented rise in the number of container-laden trucks that fall daily as the roads become slippery. However, mishaps resulting from this can be attributed to the recklessness of truck drivers who refuse to take the necessary precaution of being extra-cautious when the roads are slippery.

    ‘Containers are falling off trucks because there are no regulations’

    Speaking against the backdrop of incessant freight container falling, Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said the frequency at which containers were derailing called for concern.

    “This has been happening and we are not happy at all, a lot can be done if everyone involved in the operation gets more safety- conscious, “he said.

    Though, investigation by AMATO showed that most of the container accidents were caused by rickety trucks, absence of weigh bridges at loading points is also a major problem.

    “Some trucks are not supposed to carry more than 10 tonnes, but you see them carrying between 20 tonnes to 30 tonnes, “Ogungbemi said. He added that some customers also lie about the weight of their cargo.

    “The truck customers also contribute to the problem. Because they want to pay less, they present papers to say it is a light load, but by the time the truck is loaded, you will discover it is different from their claim,’’ he said.

    Because it would take some time and concerted efforts to reverse the growing incidences of container-fall related deaths and while it is still searching for a long-term solution to the problem, as a temporary measure, government should restrict the movement of these killer containers to midnight; that would be an interim measure to prevent more deaths from the containers.

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