The absence of an effective rail transport system in Nigeria means trailers and other Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) continue to play a key role in bulk movement of goods. They transport more goods at a time thereby saving multiple trips to the goods destination and reducing man hours required to haul goods. The time and cost savings achieved by using HGVs in transportation of goods makes them an important tool for the economic advancement of any nation.
However, the activities of these big vehicles have become a big menace to the Nigerian society and the need to have Truck Transit Parks (TTPs) couldn’t have been timelier than now. The nation has observed many situations on Federal Roads where heavy duty vehicles cause traffic gridlocks, destruction of the road pavement, accidents, etc. The Apapa-Wharf road is a case in point where truck drivers wanting to access the tank farms and Apapa Port have turned the road carriageways and shoulders into parking lots. This has resulted in traffic gridlock affecting businesses in the Apapa environs and increasing travel time for commuters traversing the road. This scenario is noticed along most other Federal Roads especially at Tafa along the Abuja –Kaduna Dual Carriageway and Obollo-Afor along the Makurdi–Enugu road. It is pertinent to note that the premature failure of the road comes at a huge financial burden to the government with dire socio-economic consequences to the nation, hence the need to have TTPs.
A Truck Transit Park is a modern , state of the art, common user facility, off the highway at selected locations, where truck drivers on long -distance travel can conveniently park their vehicles in coordinated, secure, conducive parking facilities for short term safety breaks/rest stops and/or long-term parking services in high –use freight corridors, and secure needed accommodation, food, drink, fuel, restrooms, showers and basic supplies such as spare parts, oil, grease, and service their vehicles in efficient mechanic workshops.
Standard, state of the art TTPs should have gas stations, mechanic workshops, hotels/motels, fire station, restaurants, weigh bridges, police post, automated tuck / cargo tracking systems, parking areas, showers, medical centre.
TTPs are usually developed via Public Private Partnership (between Government and the Private Sector). They are located off highways and equipped with Truck Parking Management Systems, traffic guidance systems, communication and safety systems, 24 hours surveillance, and clear signposting.
Highlighting some of the objectives and anticipated benefits of TTPs, Dr. Ikenna Nwosu who was one of the lead speakers at the just concluded two-day National summit on the “Establishment, Management and Operation of Truck Transit Parks in Nigeria” noted that TTPs promote safety breaks for truck drivers, thus reducing fatigue and incidences of accidents. “Carnage and destruction of vehicles and cargo on Nigerian roads; it also promotes security of cargo in transit by reducing cargo pilferage and theft while in transit. TTPs provide cargo owners efficient means to monitor cargo movement via cargo/truck tracking systems installed in all TTPs and it improves transit and trade with neighbouring landlocked countries who import/export cargo by truck to/from Nigerian Seaports – Consequently increasing revenue generation arising from improved inter-country trade relationships, etc.” he said.
Speaking on the need for standardization, Dr. Nwosu stated that the Nigeria’s primary requirement is to develop and operationalize optimal Truck Parking Management System (TPMS) across the nation; noting usually consists of four components; provision of parking spaces/spots via PPP, telematics to support the detection and assessment of available parking spots, communicating the availability of spaces and optimal Operation and Management of the TPMS.
“There has to be proof of concept projects and pilot projects as forerunners to implement the TTP scheme. There should, usually be multiple public –private partners, because of the huge financial outlay for the projects. Nigeria has to work closely with border states and neighbouring countries to agree a regional approach to truck parking along multistate freight corridors to ensure efficiency (Jibia, Seme, etc)” Nwosu said.
Nwosu stated that in the United States of America, a trucker could pay between $13 -$20 per 24 hours parking period, thus he admonished that tariff of user fees or charges should be set by NSC and parking discounts based on expenditures at the TTP should be available, “eg. A trucker could receive 24 hours of free parking for every $50.00 fuel bought or for every $20 spent in the TTP” he said.
Reviewing the health benefits of TTPs to Nigeria, the Executive Secretary of the Abijan-Lagos Corridor (ALCO) Mr. Paul Amechi highlighted the vulnerability of truckers to HIV/AIDS as a result of their extreme mobility with frequent overnight stay away from home; long waiting period in Ports, border crossings, parks and hot spots with availability of Commercial Sex Workers and potential casual partners in most of these locations.
He noted that the development of TTPs would reduce the workload of drivers and ensure they have proper stopping structures that would prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and epidemics.
Amechi who delivered a paper on “The Imperatives of ‘Truck Transit Parks’ in reduction of truck driving related hazards: HIV/AIDS”, equally stressed that with the advent of TTPs, consumption of alcohol and other drugs (stimulants) that may lead to decreases would be curbed.
According to him, the Lagos-Abijan corridor which cuts across five countries and eight borders, has about 47,000,000 on transit on the most important corridor in West Africa with about75% economic activities. Therefore, he celebrated the TTP initiative as it would sustain and improve on HIV/AIDS prevention services to truckers and KP along the corridor and urged the governments of Nigeria and Benin to operationalize the Seme-Krake border post. He also stressed the need to establish a modern truck park in the Nigeria section of the corridor.
Meanwhile, addressing the finance opportunities and challenges, the Managing Director of Infrastructure Development Bank, Adekunle Abdulrazaq Oyinloye delivered a paper on “Proffering Feasible Financing Options For The Truck Transit Park – Infrastructural Development”
He said in his paper that holistic planning and policy framework for the transportation sector was required for TTPs. He also maintained that project bankability was a precondition for private participation in infrastructure finance.
“Attracting and securing private capital is dependent on the attainment of project bankability criteria, as assessed by three key tenets namely: comprehensiveness of the legal, institutional, and regulatory framework; assurance of financial viability; and sustainability of the transaction structure.” He said.
According to him, although the Federal Government refines its policy position for the transportation sector which is encapsulated in the National Transport Policy which has been under development for some time, it is vital that the policy is cohesive and is duly harmonized with the policy positions being considered in the National Roads Fund and Federal Roads Authority Bills, presently still in draft form, to ensure consistency and ease of implementation.
“Of necessity, the policy documents must clearly delineate institutional roles and responsibilities amongst government parastatals, regulators, industry players and stakeholders, to ensure transparency and accountability”, he noted.
On the issue of budgeting and funding transportation infrastructure, he said, “Funding for transportation infrastructure in Nigeria has generally been sourced from the traditional budgetary allocations, donor-financed loans and other funding sources such as concessionary loans. The funding plan for the transportation could be honed and adapted to new and emerging realities of the transportation sector, following which it should be integrated within the FGN’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) to help ensure adequate funding in future.”
He highlighted the products of the Infrastructure bank to include: Project Finance Arranging and Advisory; Development Loans; Proprietary Equity Investments; Public Private Partnership Transaction Structuring; Bond Issuance, Underwriting and Market-Making; Project preparation and/or development funding; and Capacity Building, Institutional Strengthening, and Technical Assistance.
On his part, the Corps Marshal at the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi said the concept of truck Transit Parks is a modern contemporary world order of road transportation, designed for the safety of Cargo and standardization of truck driving.
“A Truck Transit Park (TTP) is a very important modern road infrastructure. TTP is a public rest area located off the road, designed to provide temporary rest location for drivers. The aim of the Transit Truck Parks is to ensure that Truck operators obtain some measure of safety comfort while on Transit and also reduce the rate of Road Traffic Crashes (RTC) among articulated vehicles on the road.
With Truck Transit Parks established along major corridors Truck Drivers will have befitting rest areas which will help them regain lost energy and proceed to drive better and safely.” He said.
He lamented that presently, truck drivers are parking on roads particularly at road junctions such as Niger/Kaduna, Benin in Edo, Ibadan, Lokoja, Lagos state and many other locations in the country, causing traffic-jam, but TTPs will provide parking areas thereby making the highway free of obstructions.
Boboye also added that FRSC collaborated with NSC for the establishment of truck transit parks on major corridors with a view to instituting safety standards on long distance travel for truck drivers. Drivers are expected to rest for fifteen (15) minutes after four (4) hours consecutive driving for fatigue management and accident prevention.
According to the FRSC Boss, since the NSC, FERMA and the Federal Ministry of Transport are all involved in the establishment of the truck transit parks, “the summit was organized at the right time for stakeholders to come up with achievable communiqué on how to harmonize strategies to come up with Truck Transit Parks as ‘One Government’ not just as individual MDAs.”
While there is no doubt that the national summit on TTPs was a huge success, stakeholders hope to see the benefits enhance the nation’s transport system and its global economic performance index to attract more investors for wealth creation, provide enormous job opportunities and economic development.