Truck Standardization scheme: the expectation and implication

Ranmilowo Ojalumo

One major issue that has been of huge concern to many Nigeria road users over the years is the constant accidents that are being recorded, not only in Lagos but across the country. Worst still is the crashes involving trucks and heavy duty vehicles on the Nigeria roads. Sad enough, the extent of the fatality of most of these crashes are worrisome, resulting in loss of many lives and property worth millions.

In Nigerian roads today, the fear of containers is the beginning of wisdom and this is because the rate of falling containers is soaring every day, just as many of the heavy duty vehicles are losing control on a regular basis. Meanwhile, pundits over the years have attributed the dilapidated state of many trucks carrying containers as the major cause of incessant falling trucks in the country. The proponents of the school of thought observe that most of the trucks carry containers are old such that they no longer have the capacity to carry the container; hence they are falling at every bend and little gallop.

The number of casualties that have been recorded over the years as a result of falling trucks is saddening to mention just as the scene of most of the incident are usually gory.  For instance, one person was confirmed dead on Tuesday May 23rd, 2017 after a trailer conveying a 40-foot container fell at Motorways bus stop, outward Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

On 25th August, 2016, a container truck fell on a car along Ikorodu road, inward Onipanu, Shomolu Local Government area of Lagos State. According to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), one life was lost during the terrible accident.

On 7th July, 2016, while Nigerian Muslims joined the rest of the world in celebrating Eid el-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan period, tragedy struck when an unlatched 40-foot container fell on commercial motorcyclists and a commercial bus, along Lagos-Badagry Expressway, killing three persons, all males, on the spot two people Were rescued alive and rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.

On 2nd September, 2015, a heavy duty container fell off the Ojuelegba Bridge, in Lagos, landing on a Nissan saloon car and a Sports Utility Vehicle, killing three people in the process. The trailer, with registration number LSD 379 XT was said to have developed a mechanical fault and fell on the road leaving the driver and motor boy trapped. Similarly, No fewer than three persons were crushed to death on 21st November, 2012 when a 40-feet containerized vehicle fell on a Mazda car on Badagry-Seme Expressway.

These are just few out of many cases of failing container/truck in Lagos alone not to talk about similar cases in other part of the country. The number of falling trucks along Wharf- Apapa –Port in Lagos is saddening to mention and this has over the years been a huge concern to every stakeholder that are doing business in the Port.

In view of the saddening incident that is clamming innocent life every, experts have been advocating for the need for standard measure that will guide trucking business in Nigeria as it is obtainable in every other country of the world. According to experts, implementation of standard on trucks will bring huge positive implications to the nation’s haulage sector because the standardization scheme will ensure that rickety trucks will no longer operate in the sector.

The managing director Dove shipping and logistics service, Mr. Gbenga Adeniyi in a chat with Haulage & Logistics Magazine recently said it is a shame that there is no set standard in the trucking operation in Nigeria, a country that acclaims to be the giant of Africa.  According to Adeniyi who has involved in shipping and trucking business in Ghana, the standardization measure in Ghana is so strong that nobody dear flaunts it.

“Truck Standardization in Nigeria is long overdue. Take for instance in Ghana, if you load more than 30 metric tons, you will pay huge fine so that next time you will not do so, they are doing so to keep their road safe and avoiding accident, bearing in mind that every accident that happens is revenue loss, to truck owner, the owner of the goods, other road users and the government, because it costs a lot to repair damaged roads.

According to him, all trucks in Nigeria need to pass through a set standard because of safety of life and goods “Nigeria should also uphold the ISO code like every other country because Nigeria cannot be in isolation, if it is being done in Ghana, Gambia, and Namibia, Kenya among others. Ghana doesn’t joke with standardization. For instance, by 7pm your head lamp must be on together with red light in both sides that indicate that an oncoming vehicle is heavy duty vehicle”, .

In United Kingdom, America, Germany, South Africa among others, standardization of trucking business is the order of the day; hence Nigeria should not be an exemption.

In her effort to ensure the safety of lives and property in and around the Nation’s port, the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) in 2006 proposed a standardization scheme, identified as the minimum standard of Safety and Road Worthiness (MSSRW) for all trucks entering Nigerian ports, a development stakeholders described as a commendable initiative to enhance safety at the seaports; unfortunately, enforcement of the scheme did not see the light of the day as set in 2006.

After the botched 2006 bid, a new target date of October 1, 2014 was not effected, same as another November 17, 2015 date. Another enforcement date was set for March 11, 2016, to shut the ports to rickety trucks, but as on previous occasions, it was also put off. Thereafter, a new date of March 1st, 2017 was set for the commencement of the standard.

In February, 2017, Managing Director, NPA Ms Hadiza Bala Usman gave March 1st, 2017 deadline to the Federal Road Safety Commission ( FRSC) for the enforcement of the Minimum Standard of Safety and Road Worthiness ( MSSRW) for all the trucks entering the nation’s six major ports.

To show her readiness for the enforcement, NPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) with the Federal Road Safety Corps in Lagos with the FRSC corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi present. Usman said during the signing of MoU that NPA has the responsibility to protect lives and properties of all stakeholders accessing her services by ensuring that all articulated vehicles and trucks which on daily basis freight containers and assorted bulk cargoes to different parts of the country from the ports meet the required minimum safety standards.

To ensure full compliance, Usman said NPA is collaborating with the FRSC and other safety enforcement agencies to achieving safety standard for trucks accessing the ports by adopting the Road Traffic Safety Standardization Scheme ( RTSSS), which include regular inspection and certification of the NPA’ fleet.

She said “going by the operational activities highlighted above, there is always heavy vehicular traffic around all port locations and most of these vehicles are not in good state”.

According to Usman, the past efforts put in place by the authority; some state governments and terminal operators to ameliorate the situation were to no avail because most of the vehicles plying the road are not road worthy. The NPA boss therefore urged the FRSC to ensure that no rickety vehicle enters the port.

Stakeholders however applauded the move; there is also high expectation among the stakeholders. For instance, the Executive Director, SIFAX Haulage & Logistics Limited, Henry Ajetunmobi, described the move on enforcement of Minimum Standard of Safety and Road Worthiness (MSSRW) for all trucks entering Nigerian ports as a great initiative that will enhance safety at the seaports. The expectation of those who spoke to Haulage & Logistics Magazine is also high that safety is about to return to Apapa wharf road and that only a healthy truck will be allowed to run the axis.

But the March 1st 2017 deadline for the proposed enforcement of the minimum standard has since elapsed but it appears much has not really been seen in this respect. Some have also said “unofficial” that the enforcement has been postponed again in consideration of appeals that was said to have been made by the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) who was reported to have met with representatives of the FRSC before the elapsed of the enforcement commencement date to demand more time to phase out the rickety trucks.

Meanwhile, a new permit of N10, 000 (Ten thousand Naira) was recently introduced and sticker is issue to trucks accessing the port. This is now a point of divergent between the stakeholders and NPA. Many truckers have said the N10, 000 permit is a subtle enforcement of the proposed standardization, a development that has spackled the reaction of stakeholders in the sector.

Some of those who spoke to Haulage & Logistics Magazine have expressed disagreement with the manner in which NPA is taking the enforcement of the minimum standard. Some also said NPA is really concern about revenue generation as against the truck standardization and safety of life and property per say.

A body of truck owners under the auspices of Joint Council of Seaport Truckers (JCOST) said the sticker permit on truck standardization issued by NPA to every truck accessing the ports at N10, 000 each is illegal. Chairman of JCOST, Alhaji Kayode Odunowo, alleged that too many levies are being paid by truckers to government agencies, which in turn have made their businesses unprofitable.

Meanwhile, Haulage and Logistics Magazine findings have shown that all truckers are in support of the standardization scheme, but dissatisfied with NPA’s approach to the enforcement. Findings have also shown that the major truckers’ associations are in support of the truck standardization. For instance, the Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and AMATO applauded the standardization scheme for trucks in the country but berated NPA’s enforcement model.

While speaking to Haulage & Logistics Magazine, the Executive Secretary of NARTO, Mr. Aloga I. Ogbogo reiterated that the standardization scheme is a good concept that everybody should embrace, but the NARTO scribe disagreed with the way NPA is going about it, saying the implementation looks like NPA is more interested in the N10, 000 collections as against the intended truck standardization they said they were going to carry out. Ogbogo stated that standardization shouldn’t be about revenue collection and generation, adding that there should be some checklist for every truck.

Similarly the chairman, Amalgamation of Truck Operators and other Stakeholders in Maritime Sector, Mr. Victor Nyesom, said his association support standardization, but the minimum standard must be attainable and reasonable adding that the standard must also factor in the present economic reality of the country.

All effort to get NPA side of the development proves abortive as of press time. When Haulage & Logistics Magazine visited NPA head office at Marina, Lagos, on 23rd May, 2017 at about 1:30 PM, the security personal that were at the entrance with the name tag D. Okoirie and A. Gambo denied us access to the office.  Similarly, the General Manager, Public Affair Mr. Effiong E. Nduonofit did not pick the call put across to his GSM line, neither did he reply the sms sent to his mobile phone. An email was also sent to NPA official email on 24th May, 2017 but there is no response as of press time.

But as against making money or seeing the standardization scheme a means of generating money to  NPA purse, stakeholders have expressed their expectation,  calling on NPA to take the safety of lives and property as priority and ensure that the needful is done.

In his remark, Victor Nysom said “how can you maintain minimum standard when the road is not in minimum state of safety? Even if you bring brand new vehicles to the road now, within few days, you will not recognize the vehicle. So the first thing is for you to fix the road and begin to examine truck body. Or is it truck that falls everyday that you want to examine its body? You want to examine the tyre of a vehicle that moves in 40 feet potholes, how possible is that? That will not work. Fix the road first and then start your standardization and by then any truck that is not fit let it turn back”.

Ogbodo on the other hand said “NPA have engineers, they should call critical stakeholders, let’s sit down and collaborate and look at it as it should be. It shouldn’t be about revenue collection and generation”.

Giving his advice, Adeniyi said “Government should stop making leap service to our road at the port. The port is the gateway to the economy, whatever we need to do should be done as urgent as possible. Expert should also be engaged to man the sector. The safety of the live and property should be priority as against making money”.

Like many stakeholders have said; standardization of trucks, not only those accessing the port but across the country is a necessity. Truckers are in support of truck standardization, as some of the truck owners have said; a good truck is an asset to the owner. Therefore, the FRSC, NPA and every concerned agency should rise up. All eyes are on NPA now to do the right thing. The Nigeria Haulage sector, no doubt will be marching towards a new path if the standardization scheme comes alive.

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