Container truck accident kills 10

Unethical business practice can kill.

On August 31, a group of students of SDN Kota Baru, Bekasi City, finished school and were ready to go home. Suddenly, a container truck sped towards this group of students mingling around with parents and residents, and only stopped when it hit a signal transmitting pole.  In total, there were 30 victims, and 10 died, including four students.

Accidents involving container and cargo trucks are rampant in Indonesia, including in Sidoarjo, a port city.  There are varied causes but a common cause is corruption.  Toha, a container truck driver, told Maritime Fairtrade that usually some corrupt drivers and small logistics company owners, in order to save money, do not change defective parts, skim on maintenance, and use parts which are not up to safety specifications.  He added that money saved can add up to IDR 3 to 4 million (US$202 to US$270) for every maintenance cycle.  

Truck tires are not replaced even though they are worn.

“The common parts involved are tires, brake pads and other small parts.  Maintenance and inspection are usually done every month and by right, many old parts should be replaced by new parts.  But sometimes, drivers and owners will ignore the problem, or they use parts cannibalized from other trucks, often involved in accidents and sold by irresponsible parties. They will produce official-looking receipts which are useless. This practice is dangerous, the parts can malfunction anytime, even leading to deaths,” said Toha.

Toha said corrupt drivers and owners are usually from small companies with a fleet of fewer than 10 trucks as it would be relatively harder for corruption to happen in bigger companies.

“They are aware what they are doing is dangerous and can result in loss of lives but they still do it anyway for the sake of money.  For small companies, they will do whatever they can to reduce operational cost.  I will never do that as lives are at stake,” said Toha.

Container trucks waiting to enter the port.

Adi Putranto, who is in charge of maintaining trucks in a mid-sized logistics company in Sidoarjo, said he often hears about corruption among drivers and other logistics companies.

“Sadly, this kind of corruption is common in our business.  But I don’t think mid-sized and above companies will dare to do it as there is much to lose.  For us, if there is an accident, we will launch an investigation and if there is corruption, we will suffer from reputation damage, and importantly, people’ lives are in danger too.  We prioritize work safety and security,” said Adi. 

A cargo truck exits the port area.

Machsus, land transportation researcher at the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS) Surabaya, emphasized the importance of traffic safety and said every truck and goods vehicle must meet the Minimum Service Standards (SPM) for Logistics Transport regulated in the Regulation of the Indonesian Minister of Transportation number 60 of 2019.  He underlined that the government, as regulator, should properly test the safety requirements. 

“There are several important safety areas to focus on, for example, exhaust gas emissions, sound noise, efficiency of main brake system, efficiency of parking brake system, front wheel tilt, horn sound, emitting power and direction of headlight beam, turning radius, accuracy of speed indicator, suitability of performance of wheels and condition of tires and engine,” Machsus explained.

“If safety violations are found, the government must act decisively and not selectively.  Drivers and company owners who are found guilty of corruption must be prosecuted.”

A big container truck on busy road.

Additionally, Machsus raised another safety issue relating to the use of big container and cargo trucks on public roads.  It is common to see them on the road with passenger vehicles and other road users, which increases the likelihood of accident.  Based on the tragedy at Bekasi City, he said the casualties could probably be reduced if there was a regulation to prohibit big trucks from using busy public roads with schools nearby.

“There is an urgency for government policymakers to look into this safety issue and they need to develop a Master Plan for Road Traffic and Transportation (RILLAJ) in each region. This is to maximize safety for all road users. It can also reduce the rate of accidents on the roads,” Machsus concluded.

Container trucks from a logistics company.
Container truck in logistics company maintenance area.

Top photo credit: Indonesian Police. Accident scene.

All other photos credit: Ibnu Wibowo

Ibnu Wibowo

Ibnu Wibowo

Ibnu Wibowo, Indonesia journalist, is a former political journalist with high dedication and determination to his craft. He is interested in writing about politics and international relations.

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