Sharjah: Days after a truck smashed into a car in Al Dhaid, killing three siblings — aged 14, 13 and 6 — and injured their mother and two brothers, truck drivers on Sunday spoke of their job hazards.
The drivers said they only get around four hours of sleep a day because they are under pressure to make as many cargo trips as possible. Multiple daytime restrictions on truck movements mean drivers mostly work through the night.
On Friday, a speeding truck that jumped a red light hit a family car crossing an intersection, killing three siblings on the spot, and seriously injuring their mother and two other siblings. Truckers interviewed by Gulf News on Sunday said some drivers load up cargo to the maximum legal limit or even higher, which makes braking difficult or impossible at times.
Besides a monthly salary of around Dh1,500-Dh2,000, truckers are paid per trip and must meet minimum trip targets in many cases. They earn around Dh50 per trip between Sharjah and Dubai, and around Dh150 between Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Pushed to the limit, many truckers sometimes fall asleep while driving or lose concentration. Drivers dozing off behind the wheel have caused many fatal accidents over the years. However, truckers said there aren’t enough designated truck rest stops on the highways, while they get fined for parking on the hard shoulder. The accident on Friday took place on the Al Dhaid-Weshah Road in Sharjah.
“Our only other options are to go home for the day or find a deserted area off-road where the truck can reach. Both options mean no more money to earn that day. But we are under pressure from the company to keep driving; to keep picking up and dropping off cargo,” one Pakistan trucker, who has been driving for eight years, said.
“I don’t take risks so I don’t drive that much. I make sure I rest fully on Friday, my only day off. But my boss said he is thinking about firing me because ‘you can’t cope with the work’. I would rather be safe than have blood on my hands.”
An Indian truck driver said he was at the scene of Friday’s accident. “The driver who caused the accident was trying to tell the police he wasn’t speeding but police said the truck’s skid marks’ length and other evidence showed that he was. If you’re not alert, because you are not rested from a lack of sleep or overwork, you shouldn’t be driving. I always pull into a truck stop if I get tired,” said Baljeet Singh, 30, who has been driving for seven years.
Truck drivers said they need more designated truck rest stops where they can park properly and safely and take rest and refreshments before carrying on their journey.
Authorities are building more truck rest stops, especially in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and along national highways.