A dump truck carrying dozens of school children dropped from a cliff in the Peruvian Andes, killing 17 people - mostly children - and injuring 54, according to a local governor.

The truck belonged to the municipal government of Cahuac, one of several small towns some 260km northeast of Lima.

The children had taken part in a Sunday parade in the provincial capital and were on their way home when the crash occurred.

Authorities were investigating the crash and the driver, who survived, was being held by police.

Deadly road accidents are common in Peru, where enforcement of passenger limits and driver competence is minimal and many rural routes are in poor condition.

The truck was making its way uphill around a curve on a dirt road when it rolled backward and over a cliff.

Several schoolchildren, a teacher and parents were among the dead.

Poverty rates in the Peruvian highlands are higher than the national average and many townsfolk pile onto farm and construction vehicles to travel between towns due to a lack of public transportation.

However, a local official said it was not normal for the municipality to use a dump truck to transport locals.