$70m roadside stations to tame truck accidents on Northern Corridor

It is not unlikely to find trucks that have overturned along the Northern Corridor, which cuts across six East African countries.

There are also quite a number of accidents involving the heavy commercial vehicles.

There are notorious black spots along the Corridor in most countries that the highway passes through, such as Salgaa in Kenya and Masaka in Uganda.

On May 20, 2016, six family members died after their vehicle collided with a lorry on the Masaka-Mbarara highway in Uganda.

On the morning of May 27, 2016, four people died after two trucks, both coming from Mombasa, collided and burst into flames.

The crash, that involved a fuel tanker and a truck ferrying a container, occurred at Kililimbi near Salama on the Mombasa- Nairobi highway in Kenya.

Such road crashes lead to loss of tens of lives as well as goods worth thousands of shillings.

Road safety experts and truck drivers blame fatigue for most of the accidents on the corridor.

A lorry that collided head-on with a car on May 20, 2016 on the Masaka-Mbarara highway in Uganda. Six family members in the Toyota Corolla died in the accident. PHOTO | BEATRICE OBWOCHA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


For long distance drivers on this route, the journey on the Northern Corridor is quite tiring.

Depending on destination, most spend up to 24 days in a month on the road.

Most drivers plying the Mombasa-Kigali route take three to four days and do three trips in a month.

A round trip takes about eight days and most of the drivers rest for two days in Kigali before embarking on their journey back.

Those transporting goods to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo take more days.

The situation of the Corridor also contributes to fatigue.

Pascal Rubimbura, a truck driver who transports goods from Mombasa to Kigali says they have to sleep in the cabin as most guest houses are costly.

“Most rooms cost $10 and at times they are not the best. Some even have bedbugs so most of us prefer to sleep in the bed in the cabin even if it is uncomfortable,” he said.

To beat traffic on the roads, weighbridges and border posts, most drivers find themselves sleeping for about four hours after driving for about eight to 10 hours.

A truck lies on its side after overturning near Makindu on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway on May 17, 2016. PHOTO | BEATRICE OBWOCHA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Delays at weighbridges are mostly experienced in Uganda.

All weighbridges in Kenya are automated and long queues are caused by malfunctions. There are no weighbridges in Rwanda.

In a bid to tame the accidents that impact heavily on families and the regional economy, the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) has launched a multimillion project to address fatigue by frequent users of the highway.

The $70 million project targets to put up 67 roadside stations that will serve as rest points for truck drivers in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

NCTTCA Executive Secretary Donat Bagula says they identified 141 sites for construction of roadside stations but the 67 have been earmarked as most urgent.

Mr Bagula said the project was informed by increasing road crashes along the Northern Corridor, mostly involving heavy commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles.

Hawkers selling to travellers at Salgaa along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway. The new roadside stations will allow the hawkers to to do their work safely. PHOTO | BEATRICE OBWOCHA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


He said loss of lives of those travelling on the route has an economic impact as most of them are breadwinners, meaning their families suffer after they perish on the roads or are disabled after being injured.

“It gets worse if the goods and truck are completely destroyed but the biggest impact is the loss of lives. The drivers are breadwinners and in the African context the immediate and extended family are affected,” he said.

As trade among East African countries increases, so has movement of goods and people, making the route one of the busiest in the region.

Each of the six countries will have a number of the rest stations depending on the stretch of the corridor and border points connecting to other member countries.

According to NCTTCA, Uganda will have the highest number of roadside stations with 27 followed by Kenya with 22.

Rwanda and DR Congo will have seven each while Burundi and South Sudan will have two.

Two lorries involved in a crash near Salama on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway on May 17, 2016. PHOTO | BEATRICE OBWOCHA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


NCTTCA says a study was done to identify strategic locations for the roadside stations in all countries on the Corridor.

The authority says the roadside stations project was launched in April 2015.

“Kenya has a taskforce in place and is in the process of constructing two pilot roadside stations in Sultan Hamud and Salgaa,” said Mr Bagula.

Documents from NCTTCA show that construction of the Sultan Hamud project is expected to cost $1,189,558 while the one in Salgaa will cost $1,442,252.

The Uganda Roadside Stations Taskforce was launched in April 2016.

Mr Bagula said other countries on the Northern Corridor are also forming roadside stations taskforces.

“I was in Rwanda recently and soon they will launch their taskforce,” he said.

To address fatigue, each roadside station will act as a rest stop for heavy commercial vehicles, passenger and personal cars.

However, the main focus is on trucks that transport cargo for long distances on the route.

A car that stalled in the middle of the road on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway. Roadside stations will have workshops for repairing vehicles. PHOTO | BEATRICE OBWOCHA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


“We will have large, medium and small roadside stations. The sizes are determined by the traffic of heavy commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles, Mr Bagula he said.

The roadside stations will have service stations and workshops for vehicle repairs.

There will be a specific station for repairing trucks and also designated parking space for trucks and buses.

The parking lots will end parking of trucks by the roadside, which at times leads to accidents mostly involving pedestrians.

Dr Duncan Kibongong, a deputy director for safety strategies at the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) in Kenya, says heavy commercial vehicles parked by the roadside make roads narrow and easily cause accidents.

Trucks parked on the roadside in Kikopey, Gilgil. Roadside stations to be constructed along the Northern Corridor will have parking space for heavy commercial vehicles. PHOTO | BEATRICE OBWOCHA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


“Stationary trucks also cause crashes especially at night because they partially block roads and are not easily visible in the dark,” he said. The roadside stops will also have washrooms, shops, restaurants, supermarkets and banks. Mr Bagula said the presence of facilities such as restaurants and banks will spur growth around the roadside stations by creating employment.

“Our aim is to use the roadside stations to tame road crashes but also spur economic activities along the corridor to improve the lives of people,” he said. The stations will also reduce accidents where hawkers are knocked down as they rush to sell to truck drivers or passengers in buses. Health facilities will also be constructed at the roadside stations to cater for drivers in case they fall sick. The health facilities will also cater for long distance drivers living with HIV.



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