BY TONY EDIKE, Enugu
Peace Mass Transit, PMT, Limited, a subsidiary of Peace Group Limited, founded in the year 1995, could be regarded as a “national career” in terms of land transport, as it moves over 24 million Nigerians around the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria annually.
With regular staff strength of over 800 and 2,000 contract staff, the company operates motor parks in 26 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. The company maintains large parks in Aba, Kubwa, Abakiliki, Ojuelegba, Nsukka, Utako, Umuahia, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Orile, Maza-Maza, and Onitsha among other cities.
However, the safety of passengers being conveyed from one point to another by the company’s drivers came to the fore recently when the management organised a special training programme for its drivers in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC. The training was in response to public outcry over fatal auto crashes involving the company’s fleets during which lives were lost.
A case in point was the fatal accident in June, this year, involving a PMT and Enugu State Transport Company, ENTRACO commuter buses along Enugu-Nsukka Highway, which claimed 28 lives, including four members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, who were returning to their states after the national assignment. The FRSC had also reported other crashes involving the company’s fleet in some states and most times the officials blame such crashes on the poor attitude and carelessness of some drivers.
Mindful of the negative consequences of such untoward developments to the corporate image of the company, the PMT management recently decided to collaborate with the FRSC to train its drivers as part of efforts to checkmate auto crashes involving its vehicles as well as to ensure the safety of the passengers, which it regards as a top priority. The company had maintained regular in-house training for the drivers but in spite of the safety measures put in place, some recalcitrant ones often ignore the basic traffic rules.
Flagging off the second quarter training programme at the PMT Corporate Headquarters, Emene, Enugu, the Sector Commander of FRSC in the State, Mr. Hyginus Fuomsuk, said the training was one of the practical steps being taken by the commission to reduce road accidents on the country’s highways before the end of 2011, especially those linked to Enugu, which he noted, had been prone to crashes recently. He charged the drivers to ensure that all the instructions given by officials of the commission during the training were fully implemented while driving on the highways so that the joint effort by the company and the FRSC to eliminate auto crashes would not be in vain.
He asked the drivers to always exercise caution and observe the rules guiding their profession, describing the training programme as worthwhile because the commission “is displeased with the continuous involvement of the company’s drivers in road accidents”.
He said: “Last month (August), in the first week, 160 drivers were trained. You are coming in the second phase with another 160 to be trained. It is a worthwhile effort by the management of PMT to see that drivers in its fleet are trained. The training is to bring up your capacity; it is to remind you about some basic things that you have forgotten or you do not know. For the management of PMT to commit these resources to get the FRSC to train you, it means that all of you must pay rapt attention for the period you will be here. “Three key issues are at play in road safety – the driver, the vehicle and the environment we operate. But if you look at the other two elements – the vehicle and the environment, all are within the control of the driver no matter the situation.
Course of driving
When you look at yourselves as drivers in Peace Mass Transit, many of you must have in the course of driving moved hundreds of thousands of people from one point to the other. But when you look at those people you move everyday, what they are expecting from you is to take them from point A to point B safely. When you fail to play your role well then you are not a professional”.
Continuing, the Sector Commander said: “If as a driver you soak yourself in alcohol, Indian hemp or cocaine, there is no way you will drive well because you must be forced to overtake other vehicles dangerously. You must be mentally alert to be able to drive well on the highway. Avoid being in a hurry. You must know that you are a professional and in every profession there are rules you must observe. You must ensure safety of your life and that of your passengers always.
“It is true that most of our roads are bad but when you are conscious of the bad condition of the roads, you ought to be careful while driving, avoiding dangerous overtaking and over-speeding. The fact that the roads are bad is not an excuse for incessant accidents. No matter the condition of the roads, you can avoid trouble by being careful.”
The Sector Commander further asked the drivers to be proud of their profession and give the company good image by reducing auto crashes and ensuring safety of their passengers. “Peace Mass Transit buses are everywhere in the country. You must ensure that the company has a good name by the way you drive. We can’t say that all the drivers are bad but there are some that are giving the company bad name. So after this training, show the public that you have learnt something good. If any passenger asks you to over-speed, resist it, and if he insists, drop him”.
He lamented that the carnage on the nation’s highways had become very worrisome to the commission and all Nigerians, stressing that the FRSC had put in place necessary measures that would ensure drastic reduction of accidents, especially during the last quarter of the year.
Fuomsuk praised the maintenance policy of PMT, adding that its decision to import genuine spare parts for its vehicles as well as the withdrawal of vehicles that had operated for 24 months from its fleet are safety measures that should be emulated by other transporters.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Dr. Sam Onyishi, who also addressed the trainees, said the involvement of resource persons from the FRSC was necessitated by the need to widen the scope of the training and sound a final warning to the company’s drivers, adding that an examination would be conducted after the training to ensure that those who failed to meet the required standard would be sacked.
“You have no option but to be attentive in class. It is only those who pass that would be issued the road safety certification. Anybody who does not get the FRSC certification, we are going to sack him. You must get the training and you must behave the way FRSC wants you to. Anything short of road safety standard, we are going to sack you.