Transporters demand cargo owners to be prosecuted for overloading

Updated: March 29, 2011

Casting the net wider to prosecute cargo owners and not just transporters and truck drivers is among proposals being considered to save key investments in Kenya’s road networks.

Kenya Transport Association (KTA) chairman Paul Maiyo says the Government and stakeholders must end blame games for the sorry mess in road transport, and instead take radical measures to stamp out overloading.

Up to $960 million (Sh81 billion under current exchange rates) investment is being put at risk by truck owners ignoring maximum axle load limits on the Northern Corridor a network of roads that links Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and the eastern DRC to the port of Mombasa.

This network of roads is a lifeline to most of these landlocked states that rely on the port to import and export goods. The $960 million is what the Government is investing in the Northern Corridor Transport Improvement Project from public and donor funds.

Both cargo and truck owners are working with corrupt police officers manning various weighbridges to flout the axle load rules and make an extra shilling.

In the process, they are shortening the lifespan of newly-built roads and those reconstructed in the last five years. Much of the private funds invested in the NCTIP must be repaid with taxpayers money at interest, yet the full value of the network will not be realised if its lifespan is shortened.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has 13 weighbridges across the national roads networks meant to check ensure trucks are sticking to the recommended axle load limits.Near collapse

The weighbridges are located at Mariakani, Mtwapa, Athi River, Isinya, Juja, Gilgil, Mai Mahiu, Eldoret, Malaba, Kisumu, Webuye, Busia and Isebania.

Because of the near collapse of the Kenya Railways cargo business, 95 per cent of cargo leaving the port to various inland destinations are ferried by road.

Privatization of weighbridges has slightly reduced the problem of overloading, but the dragnet is yet to catch all the agents of road destruction.

High cost of fuel particularly diesel, lack of Government incentives in renewal of transport fleets and outright corruption play out to perpetuate excess loading of trucks.

The overloading menace has now posed concern to stakeholders particularly the Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) that spends about Sh80 billion of taxpapers money annually to fund the construction of roads. Last year, 2,208 of the 382,000 trucks weighed were penalised Sh95.5 million for overloading.

And as the country confronts the daunting task of stopping road damage by excess loads, hauliers are in agreement that weighing trucks at the source of cargo could effectively tackle overloading.

KTA and the Road Transport Association (RTA), which represent most truck owners, are also recommending establishment of weighbridges at the port and other cargo sources, to save roads.

Cargo should be weighed at the port, various yards and company premises where it originates to beat corruption at weighbridges and foreign ports should also be sensitised on compliance with the loading of containers to acceptable weights, says KTA chairman, Maiyo.

The Government is supposed to send a circular to such ports to ensure a 20 foot containers weigh 18 tonnes and 40 foot containers do not exceed 27 tonnes in weight, including cargo.

“If the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has enforced the eight-year regulation for vehicles coming to Kenya, why can’t this apply to containerised cargo?” queries Maiyo.

He explains that importers are the ones who issue instructions to their suppliers to stuff cargo into a container.

“Without a weighbridge at the point of entry or loading, it is impossible for the transporter to determine the weight of cargo in the container,” he says.

And for penalties, Maiyo wants the net cast wider to ensure not just transporters and drivers, but cargo owners too are prosecuted for overloading instead of drivers caught carrying excess goods to bring sense on the roads.

“With the frequent increase in fuel prices, overloading is back, But we must stop this because we cannot resolve a problem by creating another one,” he says.

He expressed concern that instead of calibrating the busy weighbridges as regular as every month, KeNHA had neglected the machines.

“In the spirit of transparency and accountability, we call upon the government to install billboards to prominently display the metre readings when trucks are weighed,” Maiyo says.

Despite some registered success, privatisation of the weighbridges to transporters was tantamount to privatizing corruption, because overloaded trucks were still passing through such checks.

Separately, RTA chairman, Mr Ahmed Shimbwa, says cargo should be weighed at the point of loading, and at a second weighbridge for verification purposes, instead of having so many weighbridges on the highway.

Point of exit

Shimbwa noted that trucks are subjected to as many as seven weighbridges before the point of exit and can be charged even after being cleared by several machines.

“All of us should advocate for good roads by embracing good business practices. We should initiate dialogue between Government and stakeholders and nurture co-operation rather than competition,” says Shimbwa.

He noted that weighbridges have become a non-tariff barrier to trade along the Northern Corridor and their operations should be streamlined.

He challenged Government to lead in a campaign to popularise Kenya’s standard weights to the international community and importers to ensure containers are properly loaded and that the ministry of Transport, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), Kenya Shippers Council, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), KeNHA and Kebs take a lead in ensuring permissible weights on the roads, instead of victimizing the transporters.

Both KTA and RTA argue that although many transporters are striving to comply with the Gross Vehicular Weight (GVW) of 48 tonnes, there were instances where trucks carrying up to 60 tonnes have been allowed on the roads.

Compliance with axle load limits among trucks has presented a challenge owing to a pending court battle and is not currently enforced at the Mariakani weighbridge.

Unless police reforms are put in place, they fear, corruption would continue unabated on the highways.

The associations want truckers to belong to such Government-recognised bodies to weed out rogue transporters, and raise the level of compliance.


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