You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2016 09 09Article 468537

Opinions of Friday, 9 September 2016

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Deadly masters of the highway

By George Sydney Abugri

A port-bound truck carrying a shipping container keels over on its side and lands on a saloon car as it the driver negotiates a roundabout in the heavy industrial area of Tema, flattening the car and killing its occupants.

A truck carrying a shipping container to the Tema Port falls on its side while trying to negotiate a turning close to TT Brothers not far from the Nungua Barrier, very narrowly missing a parked minibus full of passengers and causing a long traffic jam along the route for hours.

Far away in Accra Central, another truck carrying a shipping container falls on its side just outside the gate of a basic school but thankfully the children are in their classrooms.

Many indeed are the gory accidents in which poorly fastened shipping containers or trucks carrying containers have fallen on top of passing smaller motor vehicles or pedestrians.

With two sea ports which are favourite destinations for shippers across West Africa, Ghana’s major roads and highways have fairly large fleets of cargo trucks constantly transporting import and export cargo in shipping containers.

The heavy metal containers unfortunately, are often not well fastened and secured on the trucks and this threatens the safety of other road users including motorists and pedestrians.

It is scary seeing these huge trucks speeding along the country’s roads with the metal containers precariously positioned on the trucks sometimes shipping containers without the proper balance. The results have been accidents which have caused the deaths of many people.

Motorists who commute between Accra and Tema daily say they are terrified of the many trucks plying the route which carry shipping containers not properly fastened on or which appear to have problems with weight balance and . Drivers of passenger and private motor vehicles, say they are usually afraid when they overtake, are overtaken by or are parallel with the container carrying trucks on the road.

“I don’t know why in Ghana you see so many trucks carrying unfastened and poorly fastened shipping containers. It is a very serious road safety threat that needs to be dealt with immediately”, an expatriate factory owner in Tema says.

He says compliance with road safety regulations should not be optional for any category of motorists or road users.

Some of the causes of accidents involving the falling of containers from trucks or trucks carrying containers falling on their sides include improper weight balance, rusty or old trailers, defective or weak springs, bad roads, potholes, poor driving skills when it comes to negotiating curves, and over speeding.

“The drivers {of shipping container carrying trucks tend to tilt the weight of the container toward the side away from the driver’s side to make steering easier but because the rear springs, the trailer or the whole truck may be weak, the truck could fall on the side to which the weight of the container has been tilted” a road safety officer explained.

“This could happen when the truck is on a bad road, a road that slopes to the sides or a road riddled with potholes the driver frequently tries to avoid.”

In order to avoid paying road tolls, drivers of shipping cargo carrying shipping containers to or from Tema avoid the Tema Motorway and use the Beach Road instead, with many of them passing through the residential suburb of Sakumono. The roads in residential areas are not built to carry trucks laden with heavy shipping containers but the damage to the roads apart, the danger to the safety of hundreds of motorists and pedestrians is obvious.

Motorists and pedestrians in Tema Accra say it has become necessary for the Inspector-General of Police to reach an agreement with the authorities of the Tema and Takoradi Ports, that without the use of the appropriate fastening belts and container locks, trucks will not be permitted to convey loads form the ports.

The use of ordinary ropes and substandard cables should not be permitted and drivers who break the rules should be prosecuted. While the police play their part in enforcing the law, port authorities have a responsibility to critically inspect all trucks and ensure that containers are well fastened on and post-inspection certification done, before trucks are permitted to leave the ports.

Road safety experts say vertical belts should first be attached to the shipping cargo container’s securing loops and horizontal belts next used to keep the cargo firmly in place. To prevent the belt from slipping down, there should a firm binding over the load or a belt holder used to tape the container in place.

According to some freight manuals, the buckle should be placed so that there is between 30 and 40 centimeters of free belt remaining. This end should then be bound around the locking device to prevent it from opening during transport.

They emphasize that international container transportation regulations demand that lashing belts must be lashed to the container’s lashing points before loading and movement. The risk that horizontally loaded cargo such as cylinders could move during transportation is high.

Everyone is at risk from the dangers posed by the improper mode of transporting shipping containers and the public needs to join in a campaign to ensure the safe transportation of shipping cargo inland.

In other African countries with sea ports and large numbers of shipping cargo container carrying trucks, pressure is being brought on governments to institute measures for minimizing the threat posed to road users by container trucks:

Recently, there was a renewed public outcry about the need for the government of Nigeria to rebuild bad roads on which container trucks have been involved in accidents. This was after three persons were crushed to death when a truck with registration number XT AKD carrying a 40-foot shipping container fell on a Mazda car with registration number UK 641 KJA, on the Badagry-Seme Expressway.

A point was also made by the media about the absence of rescue and salvage equipment to try saving lives and clearing roads when container trucks fall on other vehicles:

The story is the same in Tanzania where I observed shipping container haulage trucks on the road. There, you see so many container carrying trucks on the roads. Here are a few examples of fatal accidents involving container trucks which have led to renewed public agitation for improved safety in the transportation of shipping cargo containers in that country:

At Kimara Baruti a shipping container fell on the back of commuter Hiace mini-buss, flattening the bus completely and killing eight people on board. Two unfastened shipping containers slid forward in a truck at Kibamba while it was in motion and damaged the driver’s cabin, causing him to lose control of the truck which then smashed into an oncoming Coaster bus killing 12 people on the spot.

A shipping container fell off a truck near Kimara. It killed three people on the spot including an up-coming TV film actor called Thomas Senzige. Ghana’s own campaign to promote public safety in the transportation of shipping cargo to and from the ports of Tema and Takoradi is apparently yet to begin. Writer's e-mail: editing@sydneyabugri.com