As per a preliminary probe of the Motor Vehicles Department, the driver of the container lorry owned by the city-based Kosta Shipping dozed off behind the wheel, resulting in the lorry scaling the road median and the container trailer ramming the right side of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation’s Kochi-bound Garuda Volvo bus.
“The Bharat Benz lorry was purchased in August 2019 and it is highly improbable that its tyres burst. We have concluded that two of the 10 rear wheels of the 12-wheeler lorry burst on the impact of the lorry ramming the median. Its right-side wheels continued running about 60 metres over the median, during which time the tyres gave away and the wheel drums bore the weight of the heavy consignment of floor tiles. The trail is evident on the median,” said Sivakumar P., Enforcement RTO, Palakkad.
The lorry’s trailer section rammed the right side of the bus coming from the opposite direction, causing this heavy casualty. The lorry driver’s antecedents are being probed. It is not yet clear whether there was a cleaner on board, he said.
MVD officials are also probing whether the lorry was speeding, analysing its GPS.
A senior MVD official, on condition of anonymity, said the impact of the collision pointed to a combination of the driver dozing off, speeding, and an overloaded lorry. The ‘corner post’ of the trailer rammed the side of the bus. The impact of the corner post, where the weight of the cargo and the trailer is focussed, tore the right side of the bus.
Overloading the norm
“As per its registration data, the lorry’s unladen weight was about 10 tonnes, while it could carry a load of up to 35 tonnes. Most lorry operators load five to 10 tonnes extra in such 12-wheeled lorries. This additional burden often results in narrowing of the gap between the wheels and sometimes the rear wheels may rub against each other,” he said.
He blamed the Centre for waiving off in 2018 arule that made a spare cleaner-cum-driver mandatory for long-distance lorries. It was obviously heeding to pressure from fleet operators . They could save a few lakh rupees each day, by not earmarking ₹600 or so as wages for a cleaner.
President of the Cochin Container Carrier Owners Welfare Association Chandrasekhara Menon said a cleaner-cum-driver would be of considerable help to lorry drivers.
Admitting that overloading is often the norm in container lorries, he said most multi-axle lorries coped with such overload.
President of the Kerala State Lorry Owners Welfare Federation K.K. Hamsa too said presence of a cleaner would have prevented the accident. “We ask drivers to sleep well before embarking on a trip. Some drivers do not pay heed to this.”