The Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) has announced plans to set up 15 additional Virtual Weighbridge Stations (VWS).
The move seeks to boost efficiency in the monitoring of commercial vehicles. It will also raise the number of Virtual Weighbridge Stations to 25, with KeNHA having begun operations of such stations last year.
Areas mapped out for the stations include Salgaa, Yala, Mukumu, Malaba, Kitale, Mulot, Kajiado, Emali, Masii, Malili, Kibwezi, Mwatate, Nuno, Bondo and Sabaki.
The stations, which do not require physical manning will collect and transmit data for analysis to the control centre located in Mlolongo, Athi River.
Trucks step on highspeed weigh-in-motion sensors with independent scales that transmit the average weight to the computers.
From the system, one can know the speed of the truck and length. The CCTV cameras also capture its number plates and overview of the whole vehicle.
For example at the Mlolongo station when trucks hit above 3,500kg (limit stipulated by law) they are given a green light but when they fail they are flagged off to the station for further checks.
A police chase car is sometimes on standby to pursue those who don’t comply since their details have been captured and can be flagged down at any other weighbridge.
There are huge penalties for such behaviour, including fines of up to Sh1.5 million as stipulated in the East Africa Vehicle Road Control Act 2016.
KeNHA Deputy Director Road Asset and Corridor Management Muita Ngatia told Financial Standard last week that virtual stations are cost-effective, help with the protection of roads from premature damage caused by overloading and are also protecting the freight businesses from unfair competition caused by overloaders.
He said the bids for their installation and management would soon be put out. KeNHA spent Sh514 million on the ten stations after it entered a three-year contract with Avery East Africa Ltd (AEA).
The 10 stations began operations late last year. This followed a three-year contract between KeNHA and Avery East Africa. AEA would install, integrate and maintain. They are located on the Southern Bypass 1, Southern Bypass 2, Sagana, Yatta, Kamulu, Kaloleni, Ahero, Eldoret, Mayoni, and Laisamis.
The control centre at Mlolongo is manned 24 hours with “advanced analytical capabilities”. “No, there is no contract with anyone. We will soon be advertising for the same for bidders to express interest after which the bids will be evaluated before award,” he said.
The contract expires next year and Ngatia said it would procure another three years with the company. “The contract for the ten virtual stations is for three years (2017-2020) at Sh514 million. Upon expiry, KeNHA will procure another three-year management, operation, and maintenance contract,” he said.
Overloading of trucks is one of the major causes of damage to roads. The stations aim to also protect pavement and bridge structures against premature damage.
KeNHA says this will lead to better data collection which in turn informs the planning and improvement of road designs. Furthermore, the stations are more cost-effective.
Since inception, the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of weighbridges have been improved.
However, KeNHA says crafty transporters are posing a challenge with some concealing number plates with pieces of clothing, mud and even going extreme by removing the plates altogether.
This prevents the cameras on the station from capturing the number plates. Ngatia further said the virtual stations are placed on locations that are hard to avoid with a major challenge being that trucks also branch off from main highways to hidden routes when they near the station then join the highway after bypassing the station.
Muita said cases of overloading have reduced since operationalisation of the gadgets in October last year — mostly buoyed by transporters knowledge that they are being monitored.
“For example, around 2010 the Northern Bypass overload was in excess of 60 per cent but as we speak today compliance is over 90 per cent,” he said.
Muita said the few cases were mostly from local transporters ferrying construction materials such as sand, adding that KeNHA had initiated self-regulations through asking truckers to form saccos. He said the State agency will not do away with static weighbridges but would play a complementary role with the virtual ones.
There are 11 static weighbridges at Mtwapa, Mariakani, Dongo Kundu, Isinya, Juja, Mlolongo, Gilgil, Suswa and Webuye. The five on the northern corridor at Dongo Kundu, Mariakani, Mlolongo, Gilgil and Webuye have a high-speed weigh-in-motion scale.
“There is a whole difference between static weigh stations and virtual in that the static is manned or operated while the virtual are remote but collect and transmit data to the control centre.
“The static stations will continue being maintained as such, including others that will come up downstream across the road network,” said Ngatia. “The virtual and static play complementary roles, thus the need to keep and enhance both,” he added.