Causes of heavy vehicle accidents need to be addressed holistically

DATUK Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the Ministry of Transport (MOT) will carry out an investigation on the driver who ploughed his lorry into five stationary vehicles waiting at a traffic light at Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur last Monday.

The Perodua Myvi in front of the lorry was totaled beyond recognition and it was unlikely for anyone to survive in such a mangled wreck. Thankfully, the driver was able to crawl out by himself. Hopefully, he did not suffer any internal injuries apart from the external bleeding and shock.

Under the Industry Code of Practice (ICOP), action could be taken to suspend or cancel the commercial vehicle licence by the Land Public Transport Agency (APAD) if the licence holder fails the audit, which is a part of the conditions set for commercial services licences.

Should this happen, APAD could also suspend or cancel the lorry transport company’s operating licence. Also, the Road Transport Department (JPJ) could suspend licences held by the lorry driver if he is found guilty by the court.

The driver was taken to the Dang Wangi police headquarters for a urine test and found positive for methamphetamines and amphetamines. Not only it is against the law to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but insurers would also repudiate claims.

If so, any claims made by the Myvi driver for injuries and compensation against the lorry‘s insurance company may come to naught, although he should have no difficulty in making an own-damage claim for total wreck of the car from his own insurance company.

Motor insurance covers injuries to third parties only and legal liability to fare-paying passengers in buses and taxis if the driver is at fault. But if passengers were to be injured by a runaway lorry smashing into their bus or taxi, they would have to sue the lorry driver.

And if the lorry is not insured or the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then making claims would be futile unless the lorry driver has the means to pay huge compensation, which is unlikely.

There are many injured victims or families of those killed in motor accidents caused by heavy vehicles. Apart from helping these victims, it is equally important to institute measures to prevent massive accidents caused by heavy commercial vehicles.

Lorry drivers are required to renew their Goods Driving Licence (GDL) annually, and bus drivers their Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence on top of the Competent Driving Licence (CDL) that could easily be renewed for one or up to five years.

The renewal of GDL and PSV requires passing a physical examination by a medical doctor including a urine test. But why are so many commercial vehicle drivers on drugs were able to produce a JPJ form stamped and signed by a doctor and succeeded in renewing their licence?

This loophole has been going on for a while and I have pointed out many times before, but it can only be overcome by political will. MOT should also subsidise driving courses to encourage many young men and women, including graduates, to drive heavy vehicles as a career of choice.

Instead of working for a pittance, they can choose to drive trailers and easily earn between RM5,000 to RM8,000 per month. If not, they could drive buses and meet new people every day. They will also alleviate the acute shortage of good bus and lorry drivers in our country.

Meanwhile, incentives could be given to lorry and bus operators to make use of telematics to monitor their vehicles using GPS technology and on-board diagnostics to plot their movements on a computerised map. Drivers would also behave better with in cab cameras facing them.

Without better and more effective measures, road tragedies will continue to happen, only to be followed by investigations. Instead of doing little or nothing, efforts must ramp up in order to defuse time bombs on our roads in the form of heavy commercial vehicles.  Sept 8, 2021


YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for travel agencies, master trainer for Travel & Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia. He is also a tourism and transport industry consultant and writer.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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