The circumstances surrounding Thursday’s accident, involving a steel beam being dislodged from a truck that was transporting it hitting the driver of an oncoming vehicle, are a reminder that road safety is not only about speeding and blood alcohol levels. It is also about good practices being consistently maintained.
Initial reports indicate that at about 11 am Kern Bobb, 33, was driving his company’s vehicle after conducting business at Petrotrin. However, he was injured when the beams of a truck came loose and crashed through the windscreen of the vehicle, striking him on the head.
This incident brought back memories of the freak accident of November 2013 in which a mother of five was hit with steel rods that had been dislodged from a truck transporting them in front of her. That incident was fatal.
Both events underline the need to ensure materials being transported are safely secured.
More and more, our roads are being used to transport large quantities of freight. Daily, ordinary commuters share our transport system with large trucks and other vehicles transporting a range of hazardous materials. We do not have a system that provides for a dedicated lane for trucks.
Drivers of vehicles transporting items have a legal duty to ensure these items are safely stowed. Section 42 of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Regulations states, “In the case of goods vehicles the load shall be properly secured in such a manner as effectively to prevent the displacement of any portion thereof by the motion of travel.”
This provision, however, is arguably limited to only specific types of vehicles. We may want to look to the legal provisions of other countries that are wider.
In New Zealand, Regulation 246 issued under the Road Traffic Act bans motor vehicles carrying goods which are not safely contained within the body of such vehicle; or securely fastened to such vehicle, and which are not properly protected from being dislodged or spilled from such vehicle. Additionally, nothing is supposed to make contact with the surface of the road, block mirrors, or exceed half the height of the vehicle.
In that country, even persons who are not drivers have duties. The regulations make it clear that operators of a fleet must, “take all reasonable measures to ensure that such motor vehicle is operated on a public road in compliance with the provisions for the loading and transportation of goods as prescribed by or under this Act”.
Accidents involving loads becoming dislodged must be treated with seriously. Not only must the driver be held accountable, but in cases where the driver is employed by a company, that company too should face consequences if any violations occurred.
Normally, if the incident is fatal, then the local law calls for an inquest. Nonetheless, all serious accidents should be probed.
In Trinidad and Tobago we tend to have a laissez-faire attitude to matters of safety. But taking risks on the road potentially affects everyone. The results can be gruesome and tragic.
The work of organisations such as Arrive Alive – which last July celebrated twelve years since its formal incorporation as an NGO – is vital in raising awareness and changing our habits.
The law is an important avenue for redress when things go wrong. In theory, it is also a deterrent. However, tackling the social aspect of this issue that is the most effective guarantee that accidents like last Thursday’s will not recur. This means it is up to drivers to realise just how loaded with danger their vehicles can become. And to take as many steps as possible to make them safe again.