The Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) has come under scrutiny on issuance of permits for open trucks to carry passengers.
This comes in the wake of an accident involving a two-tonne lorry in a head-on collision with a Freightliner truck on the Mchinji-Lilongwe Road last week, where 13 died barely two days after a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vehicle also overturned and killed two passengers in Kasungu.
In an interview on Thursday, road safety facilitator and trainer at Safe Drive Consultancy, Abdul Osman, said road traffic rules and regulations stipulate that ferrying people using commercial vehicles such as open lorries is prohibited as they were basically designed to carry goods and not passengers.
He said even if permits are issued under peculiar circumstances to allow people be ferried in such vehicles, it would not avoid accidents.
Said Osman: “The DRTSS and Malawi Police Service [MPS] need to act on this to avoid road accidents. Much as the permits are issued to drivers to ferry people using such vehicles, it is still against traffic rules and regulations. These vehicles are specifically designed to carry goods and not people.”
He noted that one of the implications of carrying people in open vehicles is that when accidents occur, the burden is left on the driver or the owner of the vehicle to compensate those affected and not insurance companies.
But in an e-mail response, DRTSS spokesperson Angellina Makwecha said if all vehicle owners were obtaining special permits and following procedures before conveying passengers on goods vehicles, accidents involving goods vehicles would be reduced.
“The department has noted with sadness that most operators, despite knowing the requirement, choose to convey people on goods vehicles without obtaining special permits. This is why accidents involving goods vehicles conveying passengers on our roads such as the case of LA 8085, where 11 people died, occur,” she said.
On his part, Malawi Police Service (MPS) national spokesperson James Kadadzera said the police are playing a key role in enforcing traffic laws.
He said: “We are doing our best and we will not stop doing so. If you look at the number of cars that are on the streets daily and the number of accidents we record, you can appreciate that we are doing our best.”
The Road Traffic (Construction Equipment and Use) regulation 110 restricts carrying of persons on public road for reward in a goods compartment of a motor vehicle.
However, DRTSS gives permits for conveyance of people on goods vehicles for funerals and public rallies.
To facilitate this, vehicles are inspected by an examiner to ascertain their fitness and determine the maximum number of passengers to be carried based on regulated calculations, as well as to ensure drivers have a valid driving license and professional drivers permit for passengers.
The maximum validity of such permits, according to DRTSS, is seven days.