Lorry drivers ply the length and breadth of the country, delivering goods to businesses, industries and people.
Lorries are a common sight on the highway. Their presence is strongly felt especially when they are struggling to overtake another heavy vehicle uphill, resulting in a vehicular crawl on the highway. A lorry carrying a heavily laden container overtaking at a speed beyond the limit is another eerie sight.
It is concerning that the rate of road crashes involving lorries has increased. In the first half of 2022 alone, there were reportedly 19,888 collisions involving lorries, a 28% rise from the previous year.
A recent road crash in Putrajaya on 20 September involved a lorry and 14 other vehicles. Two motorcyclists died in the collision.
When such a crash occurs, it not only disrupts the flow of goods and traffic on the road, but also causes injuries, if not deaths. Productive hours are wasted and appointments are postponed or cancelled when vehicles stall for hours.
Many are likely to put the blame on lorry drivers for their recklessness.
But judging by what was recently revealed by road safety consultant Karen Goonting, the issue of lorry collisions can be complex.
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She said low wages and pressure from employers cause lorry drivers to work very long hours, resulting in exhaustion.
Their basic salary is often low and some of them are paid by the trip so that they are often driven to make as many trips as possible to make an extra ringgit.
Some drivers work up to 17 hours and struggle to stay alert. Some resort to drugs to overcome stress and exhaustion, especially on long-distance trips.
There are also deadlines to meet, which can drive some drivers to a frenzy.
This, of course, does not negate the fact that there are indeed careless lorry drivers who put safety by the wayside.
In a sense, many of the drivers are victims of circumstances, which means this issue must be seen in its larger context. The transport industry needs reform, as Goonting suggests.
For instance, the authorities need to examine the drivers’ wage structure so that the latter are not compelled to work to the point of exhaustion to make ends meet.
Employers should also be strictly made to account for the maintenance of their vehicles so that they are safe.
They also must see to it that their drivers are given enough time to rest in between journeys.
Likewise, it is hoped that drivers of long-haul buses too get similar breaks so that they are alert on the road.
If public transport, particularly buses, is to be attractive to the general public, buses have to be reliable and punctual yet safe.
The plight of drivers of heavy vehicles must be addressed. Standards must be raised so that road users are safe. – The Malaysian Insight