Earlier this week, a tanker carrying LPG overturned and caused a major fire in a Mankhurd slum, where one person was killed and 16 others were hurt. Another tanker collided with a police van in Andheri last month, killing a policeman and injuring 32 others.
These aren’t examples of one-off accidents involving large vehicles.
A survey conducted by the Mumbai traffic police shows that heavy vehicles caused nearly half the fatal accidents on city roads last year. Vivek Phansalkar, joint commissioner of police (traffic), said, “Our survey showed that 40% of the fatal road accidents in the city last year were caused by the drivers of heavy vehicles.”
Heavy vehicles include buses, tankers, trucks, dumpers, mixers and trailers.
Traffic police officials said it was difficult to control these vehicles because while they aren’t allowed to enter the city before 11 am, they are allowed to leave at any hour, and most accidents take place when they are on their way out.
“If you consider the Andheri accident, the tanker was leaving the city. Hence, it gets difficult to monitor them,” said Phansalkar.
However, experts said that on several occasions, traffic norms are violated as drivers bribe their way through toll authorities.
In most metropolitan and A-listed cities such as Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, experts pointed out, heavy vehicles, including tourist buses, are kept out of city limits. Specific ring roads are made which heavy vehicles are expected to keep to.
“In Mumbai, the concept of a ring road is not feasible because of the port located in south Mumbai. So, it is not possible to limit heavy vehicles to the city’s outskirts unless you are willing to move all the wholesale markets outside the city limits —an expensive and tedious procedure,” said Allka Shah, member of a road safety advisory committee for the Mumbai police.
Besides, said Shah, accidents involving heavy vehicles remain high at all times because the owner of the vehicle is not held responsible, even if the accident is caused for reasons such as overloading, poor maintenance or rash driving.
“Apart from technical and mechanical issues with the vehicle, accidents are often caused because driver is fatigued, has fallen asleep behind the wheel or lost control of the vehicle. Owners make the drivers work for long hours. And then they go scot-free,” said Shah.
Nitin Dossa, vice-president of the Western India Automobile Association said, “Another issue is that the law says there should be two helpers in a heavy vehicle to guide and direct the driver. But this norm is seldom followed, leading to accidents. Even in the recent Mankhurd mishap, there was no helper in the vehicle.”