Large lorries pose a serious threat to passenger vehicles on UAE roads. Due to the great difference in vehicle weight, people in passenger vehicles are very vulnerable in collisions with heavy lorries. And when those lorries are overloaded, they need more time to brake and they can easily roll over, making them far more dangerous than they already are.
This was illustrated in the accident in Al Ain on February 4, when a bus carrying more than 45 passengers collided with a lorry. The heavy vehicle overturned on top of the bus, killing 21 people who were buried under its 75-tonne load.
The accident raised some important questions. Are there efficient measures in the UAE to ensure lorry safety? And does the country have enough weighing stations to monitor their cargos?
As The National reported yesterday, there are only three weigh stations in the UAE: one in Musaffah in Abu Dhabi, another in Ras Al Khaimah, and the last one between Fujairah and Al Dhaid. And according to Amjad Al Saadi, operations manager of Roadlink General Transport in Abu Dhabi, only two of these weigh stations are operating.
Under UAE law, there are several punishments for overloading. Operators of overweight lorries can be fined Dh500, and penalised six black points and a week's confiscation of the vehicle. However, the law does not specify what is considered overloading, so it gives operators the chance to load up to the limits specified by the vehicle's manufacturer, or perhaps beyond.
Federal transport chiefs are now revising the law to clear up the confusion, which is definitely a good start. But as Abdulilah Zineddin, who holds a doctorate in traffic engineering and safety, said: "Certainly, there is a big lorry problem in Abu Dhabi when it comes to enforcement and education." Lorry drivers say they are rarely pulled over for weight checks.
A first step in addressing the issue is creating a clarified law on load limits. These laws must then be fully enforced. Increasing the number of weigh stations across the Emirates to inspect heavy vehicles on a regular basis would allow for punishments to be meted out on every lorry that exceeds its load limit.
In the Al Ain tragedy - not caused by a heavily loaded lorry but certainly exacerbated by it - the weight of the lorry that crashed has taught a valuable lesson that deserve to be heeded.