MANY motorists are somewhat fearful when driving next to heavy vehicles, especially since there have been many reports of gruesome accidents involving the latter.
Most are extra cautious by quickly overtaking the heavy-laden vehicles or keep a safe distance away.
The most recent case involving heavy vehicles took place along the old Subang Airport road at 4.30pm, where part of a boom crane fell off a trailer, crashing into a passing car and killing the passenger on the spot and injuring the driver.
Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) director-general Prof Dr Wong Shaw Voon said statistics showed the number of accidents involving large vehicles was 21.5% of the total recorded in the country.
He said smaller vehicles would always be at a disadvantage when involved in accidents with larger ones.
“There have been instances when the driver did not even realise that he had crashed into something,” he added.
Miros statistics are based on police findings and showed that 80% of accidents involving heavy vehicles are caused by human error, mainly on the driver’s part.
“Blaming the drivers is often a simplistic way of seeing things. There are many other aspects we should look into, including the working environment,” said Wong.
He gave an example where a driver’s typical day at work involved spending about 19 hours away from home, hardly a healthy lifestyle.
“They are not allowed to drive more than eight hours a day but the company finds ways to circumvent this.
“There are two drivers on board, one who drives to the destination and another who drives back. They probably take about three hours break during the journey,” he said.
While it is generally assumed that this is due to companies wanting to maximise profits, Wong said part of the blame also lies with the drivers who want to earn as much commission as possible.
“In Malaysia, not many are willing to do such jobs and those who become drivers want to make as much money while still able,” said Wong.
Selangor Freight Forwarders and Logistics Association secretary-general Wee Ah Sah said most drivers earn an average of RM3,000 to RM4,000 a month, with some making much more.
“There is a shortage of drivers and this has led to anyone being accepted, as long as he has a licence.
“The drivers consider themselves indispensable and are not bothered about making mistakes.
“They know they can easily be employed elsewhere,” said Wee.
He also highlighted the confusion and long paperwork trail that those in the industry had to deal with due to the many authorities involved.
“Different ministries, government departments or even local authorities are responsible for different aspects of heavy vehicles.
“It is better to have just one body regulating everything based on a consolidation of all these rules,” he said.
This situation has resulted in simple matters such as buying a second-hand lorry or even starting a tour business with a bus, takes months to settle, because one needs to get the necessary permits and permissions from different government bodies.
Association surface logistics affairs chairman Herbert Ong pointed out that some roads used by heavy vehicles, such as those in Port Klang, were not properly maintained.
“The authorities should resurface these roads more frequently due to wear and tear,” he said, highlighting the Northport area as one of the worst affected.
Road Transport Department (JPJ) Malaysia automotive engineering department director Mohamad Dalib said one of the first things drivers learnt was safety measures.
“In driving school, they are taught and questioned about safety. Companies also usually provide short courses and have standard operating procedures to ensure safety,” he said.
He added that there were about 22 million vehicles on the road in Malaysia, with 2.4 million in Klang Valley alone, while there were only about 1,400 JPJ enforcement officers.
“Drivers and operators must be more civic-conscious. Many do not practise what they learn,” he said.
Both Wong and Wee agreed that there were sufficient laws in the country to regulate the industry.
“The question is whether these are effective and implemented well. Also, there is no such thing as 100% enforcement.
“Everyone must play their part in improving the industry,” said Wong.
He added that the public could help by reporting wrongdoings or even send in pictures, such as drivers overloading their vehicles or speeding.
Wee said the association has recommended that the Government set up a central training school and hire experienced drivers as teachers.
“It will also help raise the image of the job,” he said.
He added that many countries kept tabs on heavy vehicles via tracking devices and making it compulsory for drivers to stop at rest areas.
Wong said the situation was improving, with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration trying to improve industry standards through the implementation of an industry code of practice.
“The code is a holistic one that addresses vehicles’ technical aspects, driver assessment, trip management that include making sure the companies take a more proactive role in knowing exactly where the drivers and vehicles are as well as setting up a proper safety management system,” he concluded.
Source From: The Star Online