Ghana’s Tow Levy Brouhaha; My Safety Piece of Mind
Of course, road safety must be the concern of all! For the number of the carnages on our roads have been terrifying. Thousands of Ghanaians are lost through road crash every year. I have always maintained that to have over thousand people lose their lives through road-crash in a population of a little over twenty-five million demands an urgent call of concern from all well-meaning Ghanaians. Road-accident is one of the albatross that is no respecter of ethnic, religious, social class or political affiliation. Many great men and women of our nation have been lost to road-crash. The list is endless to even start to mention names.
It is however always welcoming for any measure that sought to address these very concerns. And towing broken-down vehicles off the road is certainly one of such but not the panacea to address the 21% of fatal road-crash caused by broken-down vehicles on the road, a statistic put out by the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC). I have listened with awe the brouhaha surrounding the ongoing debate about the towing levy bill before Parliament. “To tow or not to tow” has become the talk of the nation and it looks like it's not ending anytime soon. And I am however staggered by this development! I will therefore attempt to wade into this issues as a practicing Safety Engineer and from a safety point of view, with little attention to the legalities and practical soundness of the bill.
A careful look at our road shows that semi and heavy duty trucks are typically the types of broken down vehicles on the road that poses serious injury/fatal hazards to road users. While some of these broken down trucks are empty, most of them are loaded or overloaded with goods. Here, I must state that the emphasis is on semi and heavy duty trucks because small cars are normally pushed off the road to the side when it breaks down. And it gets worked on and taken out of sight in no time.
In other to drastically reduce this kind of accident on the road, yours truly is of the view that a root-cause analysis should be done to really unravel the causes of the broken down trucks on the road even before the thought of “to tow, not to tow or how to tow” comes in. The fundamental problem should be well investigated and addressed!.
I must quickly add that mechanical failure is indeed associated with vehicle usage, however, there are many causes to the break down of trucks on the road that are of human factor mostly borne out of negligence or impunity towards the road safety regulations. There are many times that the writer – and I believe fellow Ghanaians as well – have seen rickety trucks using on our roads that makes one ask him or herself “how the hell did this truck pass through the road worthy test at the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA) or its affiliated agencies?”. One wonders, and rightly so! Some of these trucks are so weak mechanically that it comes across as a fatal hazard the moment one sees it. And while these trucks succeed in passing through the weak scrutiny of the DVLA, how such trucks are able to navigate its way through the many Police/MMTU barriers in a tens and hundreds of traveled kilometers also becomes a puzzle to unravel. At most instances, many of these broken down trucks don't even have reflective warning signs to communicate the dangers posed to other road users.
At this point, I will strongly posit that the DVLA and the MMTU are part of the root cause of this problem. The DVLA must first be up and gamed to plug-off the “way and means” of how these shaky trucks get road worthy certificates by dubiously overriding the laid down processes. The authority should stop giving these undeserving trucks the "warrant" to kill. And if by instinct the police officer feels a truck is a hazard on the road though it has a road worthy certificate, except for the common knowledge out there, what stops the officer from stopping the truck for investigations to be conducted and further action to be taken? Judging from the many fatal accidents caused by these broken-down trucks, The DVLA must put in efforts to have a separate and rigorous road worthy assessment for these trucks.
In another breath, also, I have come across broken-down vehicles too overloaded for the capacity of its axles. Although the Axle Load Weighing Policy has an allowable limit of 60 tonnes, drivers of such vehicles fail to realize that the tonnage is relative to their vehicle’s axle load capacity. The axle load weighing stations and its task force have also not been up to the task. Vehicles with goods overweighing its axle load capacity are left off the hook in the face of “nokofio”. Patriotism is thrown to the dogs for these “killer” trucks to get back on the road again. The weighing stations can do better to save lives!
At this point, let me draw in the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC). The commission has been mandated by the Act 567 of the National Road Safety Commission Act of 1999 is mandated by section 1 and 2 to among other, (a) to undertake road safety education and (b) encourage the development of road safety education as part of the curriculum and the training of teachers in road safety. But, the commission has had little effect on road users. It appears the NRSC has lost its steam and the innovative ideas to get its road safety education accepted and applied by the masses.
How well do these drivers know the importance of daily routine checks on their vehicle before they hit the road? How well do the many drivers associations and transport union know their nationalistic obligation to fighting road-crash? In his opinion to fighting road accident, a recent call has been made by the NRSC ambassador, Gabby Adu-Gyamfi to the point that government should “enact a law preventing automobile manufacturers from selling cars in Ghana with automatic steering wheel” (See; https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Road-Safety-Ambassador-calls-for-ban-on-use-of-automatic-cars-566349 ). Now that tells you how bereft of ideas and innovation the NRSC is bedeviled with in its road safety advocacy.
This article is not to impugn the good thoughts of having to tow broken-down vehicles off the road or to malign the aforementioned bodies, but as a practicing safety engineer with the experiences of best practices, the safety rule has been that root cause analysis should be the starting point in addressing serious injury or fatality hazard precursors. This article, therefore, makes a strong call to the authorities and agencies mentioned in this article to in a robust collaborative manner fashion out strategies to address the root causes of the rampant breaking down of vehicles on the roads. In doing so will reduce drastically the number of broken down vehicles on the road, make the towing business, if accepted in which ever form, less demanding and less costly but very efficient, and above all, save lives.
Kwame Kyeretwie-Amponsah (Stonash)
CEO/Safety Engineer, African Safety Consult Ltd.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Kwame Kyeretwie-Amponsah and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.