PETALING JAYA: The transport industry needs wholesale reforms to reduce the number of crashes involving lorries on the road, say experts.
Road safety consultant Karen Goonting said low wages coupled with pressure from employers force lorry drivers to work excessively long hours, leading to exhaustion.
“Because the lorry wage structure often has a small basic (salary), and they are paid according to the number of trips, they try to make many trips as (quickly) as possible.
“We have seen drivers working for 17 hours straight,” she told FMT, adding that it is “not humanly possible” to stay alert for that long.
Goonting said some drivers resort to drugs to combat stress and exhaustion, and keep them alert on long-distance trips.
“It’s because of the pressures of time and the environment they’re in as well. It’s not just that all of them happen to be bad eggs and want to take drugs. It’s the circumstances of the job.
“Reforms (are needed) … from the law to the drivers, their welfare, and the market, so many things,” she said.
On Sept 20, a major accident occurred in Putrajaya involving a lorry and 14 other vehicles, which led to the death of two motorcyclists.
In the first half of 2022 alone, 19,888 accidents involving lorries were reported, a 28% increase from the previous year.
Meanwhile, Transport Workers Union secretary-general Zainal Rampak said employers should also be held accountable for the resulting road accidents.
“(Whenever) accidents happen, lorry drivers are blamed. But the thing is, employers do not comply with the regulations,” he told FMT.
Zainal said employers and the government are responsible for ensuring that company vehicles are well maintained and drivers get proper rest.
“The government must not only check how much weight the lorry is carrying, but also that these vehicles have been (properly) maintained. They should also check how long the driver has been driving on the road,” he said.
Lorry driver Radzi Jamil, 35, said drivers often feel pressured by employers and customers to meet delivery deadlines.
“The customer wants the delivery as quickly as possible. The faster it is, the better,” he told FMT.
Another lorry driver, Saiful Idwan Adnan, 39, asked for empathy from the public, citing the demanding nature of the job.
“Being a lorry driver is not easy. Sometimes people accuse us of driving fast. But sometimes we drive fast because we need to go uphill and then when we try to use the brake it suddenly isn’t working.
“People need to remember, if there are no lorry drivers, no one will get their essentials such as food, because everything is sent by lorry,” he said.