Phnom Penh, Cambodia — Two flat-bed trucks carrying garment workers collided on early Tuesday morning, leaving five dead and 68 injured.
The deadly crash occurred at around 6:30 a.m. in Kampong Speu province, about 40 miles from Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh, when one truck attempted to overtake another.
“Three female garment workers died instantly at the scene,” the provincial police chief, Major General Keo Pisey, said. He explained that while one truck was trying to pass another, they were forced to brake suddenly when a car came towards them, causing both vehicles to spin out of control.
The workers were on their way to Now Corp., a Cambodian-Korean factory that produces clothing for Jones New York, Kohl’s, Target and Wal-Mart, according to a statement from the Ministry of Labor.
With underdeveloped roads and haphazard traffic regulation, road safety is a major issue in Cambodia, and traffic accidents are the leading cause of deaths. Last year, the Ministry of Interior recorded more than 4,500 accidents nationwide, which left 2,265 people killed.
This problem has bled into the country’s $5.7 billion apparel and footwear industry, where the majority of 700,000 workers embark daily on a dangerous commute to work. The usual mode of transportation — often the cheapest option — for workers is by an open-air, flat-bed truck, which provides only standing room. Workers standing on the edge of the truck grip onto its railings, while those in the middle clutch each other for balance. Because these truck companies are largely unregulated, drivers often pile workers on past the capacity limit in a bid to make more money.
In 2014, the Ministry of Labor found that 73 garment workers died from traffic accidents while going to work, while 789 were injured.