Nigeria has continually suffered huge casualties, environmental pollution and economic losses as a result of frequent fire outbreaks from fallen petrol-laden tankers. Most of these ugly incidents could have been avoided if safety measures are religiously adhered to.
When tanker explosions occur, persons, properties and several means of livelihoods are destroyed, leaving the immediate environment blighted. They also devastate the nation’s economy.
It is instructive to note that in 2020, in Lagos State alone, over 300 fuel tankers were involved in various road crashes. Although not all of these crashes resulted in fire outbreaks, there were, however, a few explosions.
Recently, a tanker explosion at Oshigbudu village in Agatu local government area of Benue State claimed the lives of no fewer than 12 persons – an unquantifiable human capital loss of eight males, three females and a minor, in an explosion that was arguably avoidable.
According to a report by the sector command of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in the state, the tanker lost control of the vehicle – the same story every time a crash involving a tanker occurs.
Apparently, there is little or no enforcement of the measures put in place to curtail this menace or reduce it to the barest minimum. And so each time a tanker explosion occurs, it is accepted as a natural occurrence. This is wrong. Almost all accidents result from human error, and can be avoided.
For a while now, tanker accidents have become frequent on Nigerian roads. The government, operators and other motorists must begin to question the integrity of petrol tankers and the psychological stability of the drivers. Other contributory factors include the poor state of road network, inclement weather conditions as well as social pressures.
Again, the implication of the fact that over 90 per cent of the tankers and trailers on our roads today are over 30 years old can better be imagined. This also makes the issue of maintenance a serious one. What is the role of the FRSC in all this? The FRSC and other road regulatory agencies need to up their game to reduce the carnage caused by tanker explosions on our roads.
Driving articulated vehicles, like tankers and trailers, requires special skills and knowledge of traffic laws and regulations. However, the frequency of the fuel tanker crashes only point in one direction – that most of their drivers are ill-trained and, therefore, not qualified to operate such special vehicles.
In view of the high rate of road crashes resulting from unprofessional conduct and carelessness by some tanker drivers on the highways, the federal government mandated the FRSC to establish minimum safety requirements for heavy duty vehicles. But it seems there has not been effective enforcement of these protocols.
The minimum safety requirements, among others, demand that articulated vehicle operators conform to the Road Transport Safety Standardisation Scheme which ensures the registration of operators with at least five vehicles in their fleet and compliance with set standards. Operators with vehicles fewer than five are also to comply with the minimum safety standards as clearly spelt out in the traffic laws and regulations.
The responsibilities of FRSC include monitoring, certifying, registering and enforcing compliance with regulations governing safety operations of articulated vehicles in Nigeria. This means that before any driver could be legally permitted to operate articulated vehicles on the nation’s highways, especially on inter-city roads, he has to be certified to have the required competences.
As a newspaper, we call on the FRSC to sit up and ensure that all tankers/trailers and other forms of articulated vehicles, especially those conveying dangerous goods such as petroleum products, comply with the guidelines on safe operations. The commission should also ensure that they are also properly registered and their services adequately regulated in line with laid down guidelines for safe operations.
It is high time government at all levels took decisive steps to prevent and mitigate petrol tanker explosions in the country. We must go beyond visiting scenes of such explosions, lamenting and condoling with victims and their families.
The issue requires a combination of goal-oriented strategies which incorporate managerial, technical, training, policy reviews, staff motivation, and the involvement of relevant agencies as an all-inclusive safety approach.