x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Lorries flout safety rules

Lorry drivers are transporting substances such as natural gas, diesel and petrol without basic safety knowledge.

About 200 cars and a number of lorries carrying flammable materials burnt in the 'Fog Tuesday' pile-up on Shaikh Zayed Road earlier this year.
About 200 cars and a number of lorries carrying flammable materials burnt in the 'Fog Tuesday' pile-up on Shaikh Zayed Road earlier this year.

DUBAI // Lorry drivers are transporting deadly, flammable substances such as natural gas, diesel and petrol without basic safety knowledge, police and industry leaders have warned. A lack of driver training was just one of the concerns about safety on UAE roads raised yesterday during a symposium organised by Dubai Police attended by Dubai Civil Defence, the Road and Transport Authority and other member organisations.

Private companies are not strict enough about the safety measures employed by those who transport flammable substances, and should be doing more to protect drivers, members of the public and police patrols that respond to accidents, said Nabil Ali, an engineer with Emirates National Oil Company. "Most drivers are completely unaware of what they are transporting," he told those gathered at the Dubai Police Officers Club.

Mr Ali said police also needed to improve how they handle accident scenes involving such lorries. "Police patrols responding should also be aware of the safety measures to be able to take control of the scene and prevent any accidents," he said. "Most police officers who are usually on the scene before Civil Defence are not trained on how to handle such substances. They are usually on the scene first and therefore should be competent. That can be done with training."

Another concern brought up at the meeting was the poor condition of some vehicles used to transport such substances. One industry representative said he had seen vehicles that were either too old or broken-down to meet safety requirements. He questioned why the police were not doing more to fine the companies responsible or get the vehicles off the road. Lt Col Nasser al Awar, director of customer services at Dubai Police, said the force was aware of violations by private companies.

"We sometimes see trucks that carry their own weight of dangerous substances," he said. "Upon pulling them over, we sometimes discover that some only carry a licence to drive a lightweight vehicle." Col Awar admitted there was a problem with heavy goods vehicles on the roads, and said much of the responsibility lay with the lorry drivers and their employers. "There is a lack of commitment from the private sector and the drivers," he said.

A representative from Dubai Natural Gas (Dugas) said companies should provide training and workshops for drivers so they can protect themselves and better communicate with Civil Defence response teams in the event of an accident. Mr Ali said he once witnessed a grave mishandling of flammable and dangerous material at an accident scene. "People including police and journalists were standing there, with their cameras and mobile phones, with an unsafe substance around."

At one accident in the Al Habab area involving leaking gas, the driver was about to light a cigarette while waiting for help to arrive, said the Dugas representative. "It was just luck that I was there to stop him or it could have been a disaster," he said. Earlier this year, four people were killed and 350 injured during the infamous Fog Tuesday collision on Sheikh Zayed Street. As many as 200 cars and a number of lorries carrying flammable substances burnt in the pileup, on the main motorway between Dubai and the capital during morning rush hour on March 11.

On Sunday the director of the Dubai Police Traffic Department said his department had taken a tougher stance with lorry drivers, issuing almost 4,000 fines - an average of 129 per day - between Oct 1 and 19. rabubaker@thenational.ae