DE-RISKING TRUCK CONGESTION ON LAGOS HIGHWAYS
Image credit: Vanguard Newspaper
Movement of goods from ports have evolved in the past century. Humans have gone from moving goods with tightly-knitted nets to steel-made containers. Thanks to Malcom McLean for pushing through this compact way of packaging goods.
With a broken railway system, the use of these truck types to move these containers become inevitable. Lagos as a port city has been a victim of these poor handlings and movement of these containers. Hundreds of productive hours are lost daily on Lagos roads due to the traffic gridlock caused by the movement of these containers. Also, the environmental pollution around the Apapa/Tin Can/Ijora axis is astounding.
The human losses from the movement of these containers around and through Lagos have become a normalcy. Months ago, lives were lost during rush hour as a truck tipped over and fell on vehicles below the Ojuelegba Bridge waiting on the traffic light.
It can be observed in the past that, Lagos State government implemented certain policies and guidelines to manage the activities of these container movers. One of these is a restriction on the time of movement of these trucks and vehicles. The policy stipulated that articulated trucks and vehicles only ply Lagos roads between 9pm and 6am but that policy immediately hit a brick wall from the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) and National Association of Road Truck Owners find here .They summarily withdrew their services from Lagos roads for a period of ten days. The state government had to suspend that policy after the public vilified their dealings with these associations.
The knowledge of ports’ dependence on their services, the absence of a viable alternative and the need by the government to always be in the good books of public opinion have made these associations a hard nut to crack.
Identifying the problem from the viewpoint of these container movers also indicate they are victims of a dysfunctional system. They cite cases of hijacks, theft and the non-existence of a 24hr city as their supplier-warehouses do not operate round the clock.
• The Lagos State government should continuously engage the Federal Government through the Ministry of Transport to intensify plans to connect the rail lines to the port areas. It literally reduces traffic congestion in that axis.
• The Lagos State government should involve Nigerian Custom Service through the Ministry of Interior on prompt clearance of goods at the ports to reduce the time delays for trucks. We have knowledge of the recently signed Executive Order on a round the clock operation of the ports but we do not have data on its impact, if any.
• The Lagos State Ministry of Transport should establish a unit to handle its relationship with the various transport associations at the ports and the axis around it to communicate policies and develop new ones.
• Again, the transport ministry needs to incentivize or create tax holidays for truck companies that move goods during the initially stipulated time between 9pm and 6am respectively.
• In partnership with the AMATO, NARTO and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), the state government should give a deadline on every articulated truck to include side wedges of four feet and above to prevent containers from tipping over.
NB: These recommendations are short term solutions.
A lasting solution to this policy issue, is the creation and development of existing port infrastructure to decongest and reduce the demand of trucks, passengers and car travellers on highways.