Almost 9,000 people in India lose their lives every year in collisions involving vehicles that carry protruding cargo, according to official data.

These loads typically involve construction materials such as metallic rods placed in such a way that they jut out from the rear end of the vehicle, says SaveLIFE Foundation, an NGO that has sought a legal remedy against moving vehicles with protruding cargo.

Carried mainly by heavy transport vehicles such as trucks, the protruding cargo endangers the lives of road users, especially behind the vehicle.

“In the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, an erroneous proviso 93(8) allowed the plying of vehicles carrying protruding loads on roads,” says SaveLIFE. In 2013, the NGO filed a writ petition to strike down the provision and implement a ban on vehicles carrying protruding cargo.

In 2014, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways brought out a notification removing the provision.

At present, punishment for carrying protruding cargo is under a section of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, which prosecutes those who violate prescribed standards for road safety and control of noise and air pollution with a fine of ₹1,000 for the first offence and ₹2,000 for subsequent offences.

However, implementation remains poor, given the frequent crashes due to protruding rods.

Poor implementation

In 2016, for instance, even after the notification of the ban, nearly 8,500 people lost their lives due to protruding cargo, while almost 21,200 people were injured in 22,700 accidents, according to Road Ministry data.

The Ministry stopped putting out data on accidents, injuries and deaths due to protruding cargo from 2017 onwards.

In a related move, several transporters recently told the Road Ministry that they are “forced” by their customers to carry bigger loads, resulting in violation of norms. The Ministry pointed out that all stakeholders — including the customers (whose goods are carried) and logistics service providers — are responsible for the state of affairs.

In fact, representatives of Porter, a logistics start-up, had told BusinessLine last year that they ended up losing some customers when the company and its lorry drivers refused to carry extra loads.

Over time, though, customers came around and did not ask for ‘overloads’, Porter co-founder Pranav Goel had said.