Many incidents of trucks laden with containers slipping off their platform onto the road, causing injury, death, and obstruction of traffic flow are not new in Ghana. Road-users – motorists and passengers alike, may panic when they see trucks with logs, metal coils, concrete pipes, large boulders, and intermodal containers alongside, or approaching. These nail-biting moments quickly turn into terror when one realises these containers are not fastened on the trucks.
It is a typical scene, especially within Tema – the port city and its environs, to see the ‘toing and froing’ of heavy-duty vehicles. Most of these trucks carry containers that are not fastened properly, as a result, they slip off when the trucks are driven through bad roads. Cases abound of unlatched containers falling off trucks and sending many people to their untimely death, while causing untold damage to property as well.
In 2020, Nungua (in the Krowor Municipal District) recorded three unlatched container accidents, which fell off and killed innocent bystanders. I witnessed a container falling off just after the First Junction bus stop. Just imagine if this container had fallen off around a busy bus stop with commuters. This could easily have been a national disaster. And all because someone failed to do his job of securing the container properly. A quite recent accident involving a container sliding off the truck occurred on the Spintex road a couple of weeks ago. The driver of a Mercedez Benz vehicle reportedly run into a 20 footer container that had fallen onto the road, resulting in three persons’ death.
On most occasions, when an accident like this happens, there is public outcry. Still, after a few days, life returns to normal with no concrete steps to prevent a reoccurrence with the regulatory agencies, ensuring compliance to safety and road traffic rules.
Do we have to wait for an upsurge in these accidents before we take action? Should more innocent lives be lost before the law enforcement agencies wake up from their slumber?
Securing cargo and what must be done
Heavy loads are most often secured to vehicles with tie-downstraps, heavy-duty strapping, or double-ended twist locks. With the onset of the rains, where the road becomes wet and very slippery, cars, including container trucks, can lose traction and slide across the road surface, reducing motorists’ control and increasing the risk of an accident occurring. We must not wait for the worst to happen before we take action.
There must be a public safety campaign to ensure that unlatched container trucks are not allowed to “prowl” on the roads. The Motor Transport and Traffic Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service should not be limited to checking the driver’s license and overspeeding but its related offences. They must ensure that unlatched container trucks are not allowed on our roads.
How many times do we get to hear that someone is prosecuted because of driving an unlatched container truck that caused an accident? Yet, there are enforcement agents on those roads, allowing them passage. I approached a police officer on the Sakumono – Tema Community Three road after letting one of these trucks pass. He was dismissive of my concern until I showed him my work ID. He quickly changed his narrative and said, “I asked the driver to inform his company to buy him a tie-down strap to secure the container on his next drive”. How I wished such cautioned statements could prevent disasters!
So far as our economy relies on the freight transport industry to keep supply chains functioning, it means container trucks will always be on our roads, but with proper enforcement and supervision, can reduce falling off containers. Even though some of the trucks use double-ended twist locks, it is imperative to tie the containers with standardized straps. Most of the straps used are threadbare, yet regulators allow them to leave the warehouses and the ports. International practice forbids the use of unmarked tie-down. Tie-down must be marked by the manufacturer with respect to their Working Load Limit (WLL). This ensures that all drivers use the proper equipment for securing a load.
While pointing out the need for law enforcement agencies to effectively enforce safety regulations on container-carrying trucks, we can go further by restricting heavy-duty vehicles, trucks, and tankers to ply the road on some particular days and within a specific time frame. In that case, other motorists who are intimidated by the bulldozing nature of the truck drivers can also use the road in peace.
The Ministries of Roads and Highways and Transport must provide directives to this effect as a matter of national safety urgency. Penalties and sanctions for non-compliance should be strictly enforced as a form of deterrent to drivers of unlatched container trucks.
In a related development, why have taxi drivers and some private cars ‘taken over’ the bus stop in front of the Ghana Police Service headquarters, making it impossible for commercial buses to stop and allow passengers to alight without stopping in the middle of the road? If such indiscipline is brazenly becoming the norm at the doorstep of the law and enforcement agency, there is a serious problem confronting us. Do we also need a full-page opinion piece written on this activity before action is taken?
We must not wait for disaster to strike before we pull the plug on this illogical development.
Pearlvis Atsu Kuadey – [email protected] The Writer is a Media Monitor