Malaysia’s ignored hazard: Trucks with bad tyres

FEBRUARY 17 — Forget Covid-19 for a second. You know what’s really dangerous? Huge vehicles on the road. 

Because at any given moment, a lorry or bus whose driver who hasn’t slept since July and whose vehicle has been running on retreaded tyres for like 100,000 kilometres, may just do something crazy like spin out of control. 

If you’re within spitting distance of such dangerous vehicles, then the last thing you may be seeing is your windscreen being smashed into a gazillion bits.

It’s an open secret that one of the most frequent causes of deaths on the highway are trucks, buses and lorries which make the pile-up scene at the start of Final Destination 2 look like a kindergarten bumper-car party. 

Only last week I received (yet) another WhatsApp vid from a dashcam capturing a lorry with a burst tyre, which caused the vehicle to swerve, which then resulted in the car on its right slamming into the drain and being tossed into the air like a frisbee before crashing down. 

Covid-19 takes about two to three weeks to get its hooks into you (and even death is increasingly unlikely), but that lorry took just three seconds to kill everyone in the car.

And have we forgotten that vid from about a year ago showing a runaway bus ramming its way through a sea of cars? For a second there I thought the driver was trying to re-enact what Keanu Reeves was doing in Speed

Speaking of speed, I am sure you have come across bus drivers on the highway hell bent on over-taking you, even when you’re pushing 110 km/h? 

Which means he’s gotta be doing 130 km/h-ish. I’m like, what’s the rush bro? Your toilet rosak or what? ‘Cos with everybody hitting higher and higher speeds, do you think more or fewer crashes will occur?!

The root cause of the above kinds of accidents can be traced to two points:

Greedy business owners cutting costs by refusing to maintain their trucks properly e.g. by retreading tyres instead of replacing tyres 

Drivers being made to drive crazy long hours with insufficient rest, yet continuously incentivised to drive even more (as this reduces the need to increase the number of drivers)

What happens in the end? Voila! A (truck)-load of needlessly calamitous road accidents involving trucks and lorries presented to us via less-than-hi-def social media. 

The extra tragic fact, to reiterate, is how these calamities often result in people other than the truck driver being seriously injured or dying.

What can be done? Is this a serious problem or not? When you’re driving along the highway and you’re coming near a truck or trailer or lorry, how do you feel? 

Do you react the same way you would today if you saw an individual from PRC coughing and sneezing?

(Indeed, the key lesson of Covid-19 is that when it comes to dangerous phenomena, we should not be obssessed about the usually low probability of occurrence. We must instead focus on the magnitude or impact to our lives should they occur.)

Here are two very simple suggestions to arrest these situations and I hope Puspakom is listening:

Retreaded tyres should be made illegal. Period.

Should its tyres fail or burst, the chances of a vehicle going out of control and causing a death (or more) on the road are extremely high and that should be absolutely non-negotiable if it’s preventable. 

It’s almost like a child sticking his head out of the side window or following strangers in a mall: You should simply refuse to allow it. 

Why? Because “something going wrong” in both cases can be tragic and irreversible.

Ditto with a tyre bursting on a super-huge truck. You simply do NOT risk the consequences for the sake of costs. 

Employers should be fined or have their licences revoked if such tayar celup are found on any of their large vehicles. 

Also, we must

Limit the number of hours drivers are allowed to work.

I’m not familiar with the shifts and time limits and all that, but it shouldn’t be hard to ensure that every driver on the road has been sufficiently rested, and no one should handle a 10-ton truck who needs 20 cans of Red Bull to open his eyelids.

Puspakom, I have spoken.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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