The regulations of the Motor Vehicle Department, forbidding the movement of tankers carrying petroleum products during the day time, seems to drawing flak after the tragic gas tanker blast in Kannur.
Though other states have restricted the movement of tankers at night, the motor vehicle rules in the state permit the vehicles to operate in just the contrary way.
The officials of the Motor Vehicle Department said that, the majority of the tanker lorries carrying petroleum products from Kerala move to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “Under the Motor Vehicle Act formulated in 1989, the tankers carrying petroleum products are permitted to ply from 8 pm to 8am in the state. In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the Act permits the tankers to operate during the day, between 7 am to 7 pm. If a major accident is to occur at night, the rescue operations will be tough and the casualty will be high, similar to the explosion in Kannur. The time slot has been chosen considering the traffic during the day. Nothing has been gained from this rule, apart from an increase in accidents,” said an official of the Motor Vehicle Department.
More than 300 tanker lorries carrying petroleum as well as explosives to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu ply on the highways each day. Sixty per cent of the vehicle are from here. With a shortage of trained drivers, the oil companies and the contractors of the tanker services flout the safety rules.
G Ananthakrishnan, Motor Vehicle Inspector, said that with the lorry drivers engaged for more than 24 hours on a stretch, they are prone to fatigue and stress, posing a risk to the lives of others.
“The drivers carrying petroleum products often have busy schedule and drive for more than 24 hours on a single stretch. There are rules specifying that vehicles carrying explosive products should have two well-trained drivers. But the rules are not followed by the oil companies and the contractors, who eye the monetary benefits alone. A consignment sent from here at night reaches Bangalore in the morning and the tanker returns the same day, only to find the next load ready for delivery. The drivers hardly find time to rest and this makes them prone to accidents,” Ananthakrishnan said.
K Sundaresan, Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), said that there are prescribed safety norms for transporting inflammable goods.
“In Kerala, the major trouble is that the roads are narrow and are in pathetic condition. With the government and Motor Vehicle Department inactive, transporting inflammable products by road has become dangerous,” Sundaresan said.