Low safety standards, corruption haunt Indonesia’s logistics services
Several road accidents involving large trucks taking place across the country in the past few months have raised questions over safety standards in the logistics services, the backbone of the nation’s economy.
Late last year, Transportation Ministry land transportation director general Budi Setiadi revealed that “almost 90 percent of the country’s logistics is still transported by land”.
His statement was in line with a report issued by the Australian-funded Indonesia Infrastructure Initiative (IndII) in 2014, which found that around 75 percent of logistics transportation across the country was still done by road. Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Bali and the Nusa Tenggara islands rely heavily on land transportation, while Kalimantan, Maluku and Papua depend mostly on sea transportation.
The latest crash that made headlines on Sunday involved 21 vehicles and killed at least eight people. The accident started when a dump truck tipped on its side at Kilometer-91 of the Cipularang toll road. Four vehicles were waiting for the truck to be moved when they were hit by another truck that had veered of control due to brake failure.
Another accident involving a freight truck in Tangerang, Banten, in August killed the driver of an app-based ride-hailing service and his three passengers. An infant who was traveling with them survived.
Five days later, another truck loaded with hebel blocks crashed into a car in Neglasari, Tangerang. While the car was severely damaged, its driver escaped the incident with his life.
While authorities were quick to blame the drivers involved, these accidents draw attention to prevailing problems surrounding transportation and logistics.
Human error due to exhaustion is often a leading factor behind road accidents, but most logistics drivers are unable to avoid working long hours. Furthermore, they are usually paid based on the number of trips they make instead of receiving a fixed salary.
Adma Siregar, a truck driver from Medan, North Sumatra, said drivers often spent up to 20 hours a day behind the wheel. He earns Rp 6.5 million (US$457.60) for a trip from Medan to Jakarta, which normally involves a day and a half of non-stop driving.
The money he earns, however, is also used to pay for gasoline, ferry trips as well as illegal levies along the way.
“At the end of the trip, I get only Rp 1.2 million for four days of work,” Adma told The Jakarta Post recently.
Companies are known to offer a cash incentive – referred to as uang gas (gas money) – for drivers to can arrive at their destination on time.
“I once accepted a job transporting oranges from Berastagi [North Sumatra] to Bandung [West Java] in two days and three nights for an additional Rp 300,000 in gas money. Luckily, I made the trip on time,” Adma said, conceding that he often exceeded the speed limit to make the target.
Such schemes encourage drivers to haul bigger loads on a single trip, causing the truck to be overloaded. Drivers aim to earn extra money, ranging from Rp 1 million to Rp 1.2 million per trip, Adma went on to say.
Muhammad Nur Albanjari, a board member of logistics company Trans Express Indonesia Group, blamed a lack of discipline among driver for road accidents involving freight trucks.
He assured that his company always checked each vehicle’s condition before they depart and trained drivers about road safety procedures in cooperation with the North Sumatra Police’s traffic unit. Drivers are given a monthly salary of Rp 3 million as well as a bonus amounting to 10 percent of delivery fees, he added.
For each trip, the company provides drivers Rp 3 million in operational funds, to be used for gas, drivers’ accommodation as well as any levies along the trip.
“However, drivers often ignore our warnings, which eventually leads to road accidents. In the end, customers complain and fine us for being late in transporting the cargo,” Nur said.
Indonesian Truck Operators Association (Aptrindo) deputy chief Kyatmaja Lookman said even though drivers and truck operators knew the risks of driving overloaded trucks, they could not refuse when companies asked them to make very large deliveries because the trucking business is very competitive.
“If you don’t want to carry the load requested by customers, they will find other companies that will,” he said.
Law No. 22/2009 on traffic and land transportation requires truck drivers and logistics companies to adhere to a load limit. According to Article 307, drivers found driving overloaded and oversized vehicles face a maximum punishment of one month in prison and a fine of Rp 250,000.
Another article states that any individual found operating an illegal articulated vehicle that is oversized can receive a maximum punishment of one year in prison and a fine of Rp 24 million.
According to Soegijapranata Catholic University transportation expert Djoko Setijowarno in Semarang, Central Java, regulations mandate regional administrations to supervise logistics and other road transportation activities.
“The supervision should include each vehicle’s load limit as well as a special road network for transportation,” Djoko said.
Violations may be identified by weighbridge operators from the Transportation Ministry. However, this facility is often marred with corruption, with operators illegally accepting money from drivers to let them pass without further inspection.
“However, violations are often overlooked because the supervision was not conducted seriously,” Djoko said. (nla)