THE 312 State Road is an important route connecting the eastern, central and northwestern parts of China.
It stretches across eight provinces from Shanghai city to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, covering nearly 5,000km.
On Oct 10, an overpass of the road in Wuxi city of the eastern Jiangsu province collapsed, crushing three cars underneath it.
Three people were killed in the 6.10pm incident.
Two of the victims were a kindergarten teacher, 30, and her daughter, who just started pre-school last month. The other was a single father.
Five other vehicles on the viaduct fell onto the ground, leaving two people injured.
Initial investigations pointed the finger at overloaded trucks for the single-pier bridge collapse.
One of the vehicles is said to be carrying steel products weighing nearly three times more than the permitted 65-tonne.
Six people, including the boss of a transport company, were detained on the same day.
Soon after the incident, shocking video clips captured by various car camcorders went viral on the Internet.
One footage shows the driver of a three-wheeler jumping out of his vehicle when the overpass fell right in front of him.
Liu Jianjun, 36, said he travelled underneath the flyover a few times a day.
“That day, I was rushing to deliver all the goods and go home for a meal; I had not even eaten lunch.
“I remembered jumping out upon seeing some debris falling from the bridge but I fell on the road after running for a few steps.
“Passers-by shouted at me to run but I was too shaken by the incident. I could not even stand up, ” the freelance delivery rider told Qilu Evening News.
Liu then climbed back into his vehicle as it was being pushed to safety by rescuers.
When he reached home, his cousin and brother brought some fireworks and the family went out for a meal to celebrate Liu’s lucky day.
“When I woke up the next day, I found myself becoming a celebrity.
“Media news outlets came one after another and my neighbours rushed over to take pictures with me to share my luck and told me that I would have good fortune after surviving a disaster, ” he said.
Liu said the windscreen of his vehicle was shattered, the lamp broken and the front part was damaged.
“My three-wheeler and I have been through life and death together. I will keep it as long as it is still running, ” he said smilingly.
After the incident, Wuxi government ordered a crackdown on overloaded vehicles.
“We have learnt a lesson and will make every effort to promote safety, ” said mayor Huang Qin.
The Jiangsu provincial public security department has also launched a 100-day operation to crack down on vehicles ignoring safety hazards.
Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture professor Zhu Lei told China Daily that single-pier bridges (a single column in the middle supporting both lanes) are safe as long as they meet standards.“However, when overloaded trucks frequently ply on these bridges, one side of the pier may be damaged, which in the long run can cause an overturn.
“In extreme cases, trucks can outweigh one side of the bridge and cause it to overturn, ” he said.
He said such design used to be popular in China because it saves space but now there are more double-pier bridges with support on both sides.
Prof Zhu said that the concrete and reinforced steel bars of double-pier bridges could also be damaged by overloaded trucks, causing the structure to collapse.
“To prevent this, high-level bridges have sensors to monitor inner stress and possible deformation, while ordinary bridges require regular checks and maintenance, ” he said.The incident has sent a serious reminder on the danger posed by overloaded vehicles on the road, not just to the Chinese authorities, but Malaysians as well.
Lorries with full loads of sand, pebbles or palm fruits are a common scene on Malaysian roads.
Apart from being overloaded, on many occasions, the cargo compartment is not properly secured and debris keeps falling from the moving trucks, sometimes endangering other motorists.
Although there are weighing centres along major roads and highways, I do not know how strict the enforcement is. For sure, I will stay far away from these vehicles whenever I see them on the road.
The Wuxi incident seemed unavoidable, no matter how careful a driver is.
Perhaps it is time our authorities also relook at their standard operation procedure or examine road bridges for the safety of all road users.
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