No going back on enforcement of speed governors
By Moses Akaigwe
Seven months after the planned enforcement of compulsory installation of speed limiting devices in commercial vehicles was curiously halted by the House of Representatives, the Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC) has announced that it is set to commence strict implementation of the regulation from Saturday, October 1, 2016.
And, as the countdown beams, the Corps Marshal of FRSC, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, has affirmed that there would be no more shifts in deadline beyond September 30. His warning has been echoed at different occasions by some top officers of the corps, including the now retired Deputy Corps Marshal in charge of Operations, Adei Abu, and the Assistant Corps Marshal in charge of Policy, Research and Statistics, Dr. Kayode Olagunju.
Reinforcing the argument in favour of speed control, Dr. Oyeyemi disclosed that about 68 per cent of the over 12,077 road crashes recorded in 2015, in which 5,400 people lost their lives, was traceable to over-speeding. He, therefore, assured of the corps’ determination to reverse the trend with the enforcement of the use of the speed limiters.
FRSC will commence the enforcement with focus on commercial vehicles and transport operators’ fleets, owing to the fact that their passenger vehicles have many people on board while the crashes involving haulage trucks are usually fatal. All vehicles – private and commercial – on the country’s roads are expected to have the device compulsorily installed on them in two years’ time.
“The final directive from the Presidency is clear: The enforcement date for the implementation of the speed limiting device is on Oct ober 1 and we have had series of stakeholders meeting and the essence of today’s meeting is to finally convey the directive of the Federal Government to the stakeholders that with effect from October 1, the implementation and enforcement would commence”, the Corps Marshall remarked.
FRSC has warned that from Saturday, owners of inter-state commercial vehicles intercepted for operating without installing the device, would have such vehicles impounded, ”and they must come to our premises and fix the device before we release the vehicles”.
As an electronic device fixed on vehicle to regulate its speed by not allowing the driver to accelerate beyond pre-set speed limit, a speed limiter or governor reduces considerably the risk of an accident occurring.
Road safety experts agree that the consequences of high speed on motoring are multi-dimensional, including longer driver response to objects and potentially dangerous situations. Speed also reduces the driver’s ability to steer safely, negotiate bends, as well as extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle in an emergency situation.
The FRSC boss said that emphasis would be more on ensuring compliance and less on fine, “because if we insist on fine, many will pay when arrested, but will not go back to do the right thing…Our concern is not the money, but that every vehicle should have a speed limiting device so that we can make our roads a safe haven,” Oyeyemi said.
Public enlightenment, training and refresher courses, use of speed radar guns, provision of signs and of speed calming measures in the design and construction of road infrastructure, as well as enforcement, are the commonly applied options in reducing speed violations. But direct control of the vehicle speed (electronically) has become a more result-achieving strategy, hence the intention of the lead road safety agency to introduce it.
A resolution in the House of Representatives early in the year halting the project over what members said were the high cost of procuring the devices and lack of legal support, temporarily threw spanner in the works. But, road safety experts, decried the argument of the lawmakers, accusing them of misplacing priorities and lacking the understanding of the functions of the speed governors.
Seven months ago, the average price of a speed limiter was about N25, 000, but it was learnt last week that the exchange rate and other factors have combined to raise the price to a range between N35, 000 and N45, 000, depending on the brand and the vehicle model.
However, safe road advocates have stressed that placing cost above the safety of the motoring public at a time road users, including top government officials, legislators, military personnel, school children and other Nigerians, are among those dying every day in crashes, directly and or indirectly linked to over-speeding, was irresponsible.
One of the strong supporters of compulsory installation of the limiters and Managing Director of ABC Transport Plc, Mr. Frank Nneji, also faulted the Representatives emphasis on costs, rather than the usefulness of the devices.
It is a widely acknowledged that one of the ‘secrets’ of the impressive accident record which ABC Transport, maintains year after year, is the speed limiter. Nneji was obviously speaking with benefit of experience recently when he remarked that the gains of using the device are enormous compared to the price.
Another safe motoring campaigner and Director at Safety Beyond Borders, Mr. Patrick Adenusi, also lamented the action of the legislators, saying “the corps put it that 24 Nigerians are killed daily in road crashes, which is far from the truth. On the average, about 100 are killed on Nigerian roads daily. And, there should be an emergency on that. So, for anybody to ignore this ugly picture is unacceptable”.
The Chief Executive Officer of Transit Support Services Limited (TSS), Mr. Stanley Mbanu, agreed.He argued that the benefits of having a speed limiter in a vehicle far outweigh the cost of procurement. As the vendor and installer of the European Economic Community-approved Autokontrol speed limiting devices, TSS is among the 38 accredited by the FRSC to provide the devices.
Another popular transporter, Chief Samuel Maduka Onjishi, who is the Managing Director of Peace Mass Transit, operator of the largest fleet of mini buses in Nigeria, described the compulsory use of the limiter as the best thing to happen to transportation in the country. The speed governors, according to him, are installed on all PMT buses.
The stakeholders agree that aside safe motoring, chief among the benefits of using the electronic device is that it reduces fuel consumption resulting from lower speed. Regulated speed in turn cuts down the cost of maintenance, thus leading to longer life-span for vehicles.
Contrary to the lawmaker’s argument that the corps lacks the power to introduce the device, the road safety promoters believe that the agency is performing its statutory function as contained in the FRSC Establishment Act and the National Road Traffic Regulation since 2004, and retained in the subsequent amendments.
Apart from recommending speed limits on the roads, a relevant sub-section of the National Road Traffic Regulation says: “All motor vehicles plying the highway shall be in possession of good electric or air horn, jack, wheel spanner, tools, fire extinguisher, inflated spare tyre, first aid box, emergency warning triangles or cones, laminated windscreen and mirror, speed governor (or speed limiter), wipers, insurance certificate and road worthiness certificate’.
Specifically, a sub-section makes it an offence to drive a vehicle “which is not fitted with a speed limiter” on any public road.
Following a reversal of stance by the House of Representatives and a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, FRSC Corps Marshal a few weeks ago convened a stakeholders’ forum to announce the new date for the commencement of the policy.
Interestingly, while all the stakeholders contacted last week were in support of the enforcement, concern about cost and affordability was raised once again. This time, it was by the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), whose Executive Secretary, Ogbogo Aloga, told the Daily Sun that, though the petroleum product tanker operators had started complying with the directive, they were finding it difficult to raise the money to procure the device.
Disclosing that the installation of the device has been made a condition for the tankers to take petroleum products at the depot, Aloga, echoed the recommendation NARTO made at the stakeholders forum for members’ vehicles to be installed with the devices on soft term of paying for them instalmentally. The fuel tanker operators, he explained, are hamstrung by the fact that the freight rates are regulated by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.
Reacting to the appeal, the Deputy Public Education Officer of the FRSC, Mr. Bisi Kazeem , advised the association to approach any of the vendors for such incentives. Kazeem, who is a Corps Commander, re-stated that enforcement would commence as planned on Saturday with no possibility of an extension of the deadline.
To facilitate the enforcement, FRSC said it has already opened a portal that would be used to monitor compliance. This will be linked to a tablet that will check whether a vehicle flagged down by the marshals has been installed with the device.
It was learnt that selecting the 38 providers of the speed limiters, FRSC had collaborated with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC).
Stakeholders that were represented at the forum to announce the new deadline were Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-governmental Affairs, the House Committee on FRSC, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SON and NADDC.
Others are the National Security Adviser, Department of State Services, Association of Speed Limiters of Nigeria, PTD-NUPENG, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria National Union of Road Transport Workers and NARTO.