By Dr Moses Amweelo
SINCE independence the Government, together with our co-operating partners, has committed a significant amount of funds to our road infrastructure, which presently has an asset value of N$8.0 billion. This huge investment requires preservation and sustainable utilization to ensure continued economic growth both at national and regional level.
The cost of damage due to the operation of over-loaded vehicles on our road network is estimated at N$18.0 million per annum. If the loads are not controlled, this cost has to be carried by the road users, which will require significant increases in the road-user charges. The Government through the road sector has created a system that will ensure the optimum maintenance, rehabilitation and development of our road network.
During August 2000, the Cabinet endorsed the weighbridge development programme as proposed by the Roads Authority. The endorsement of the programme is an indication of the seriousness of the Government as far as maintenance of transport infrastructure at acceptable levels of service is concerned. The road transport is the most important mode used by all on a daily basis and besides benefiting the road users, roads also play a significant role in promoting not only economic growth but also improve the living standards of our people.
Road transport in the SADC region and indeed in Namibia has become an indispensable mode of transport as over 90 percent of the goods are transported by heavy vehicles (lorries, trucks and trailers) on the road network. We have also recognised that the movement on our roads by overloaded vehicles is the cause of rapid deterioration of the road pavements, which in turn results in sharp increases in the vehicle operating costs, time delay costs and maintenance costs, thereby increasing transport costs. All this negatively affects economic activity and therefore economic growth. We are indeed pleased that initiatives have commenced to put facilities like weighbridges in place to curb and reduce the number of overloaded vehicles on our national roads. Road maintenance, rehabilitation and development require huge capital investment, which since independence has had a significant injection of funding by the Government. This huge network requires protection from rapid consumption by overloaded vehicles and facilities such as the weighbridges are meant to protect this huge investment in our road network as a public asset. The passage of overloaded vehicles on our national roads should therefore be a concern to all the citizens of our country for the following reasons:
– They cause significant damage to the roads resulting in shorter service lives and increased maintenance and transport costs.
– They are a safety hazard due to increased braking distances, higher chances of tyres failure and instability of the vehicles due to wrong placement of loads.
– They cause traffic delays due to reduced travel speeds which result in frustration of other motorists hence overtaking where it is unsuitable to overtake increasing chances of accidents.
– The rapid deterioration of the vehicles themselves increase the chances of developing mechanical problems and therefore accidents.
– Overloading results in unfair competition between operators with the law-abiding operators being disadvantaged in the transport business.
The control of loads on heavy vehicles is not meant to discourage the use of our road network, but rather to ensure that the road network is utilised at sustainable levels and will in addition level the playing field between road transport and the other modes of transport and at the same time will improve road safety as overloaded vehicles have high chances of causing accidents.
The management of the weighbridges and the overload control operations is to involve stakeholders in the transport industry and other private sector organs. This is indeed in line with Government’s undertaking of withdrawing from non-core activities and operations and concentrating on policy and regulatory functions. I therefore would like to call upon all the stakeholders in the road transport industry to be partners in this venture as it benefits all of us. The partnership with the private sector is very much supported by the Government. The Government has put structures in place (Windhoek weighbridge, Onhuno weighbridge, Walvis Bay weighbridge, etc, etc) that will ensure the management of the road network to achieve a safe and efficient road sector. These facilities, being the first since the commercialisation of the road sector, in years to come will see a number of other facilities in place on the road network.
Road Transport Inspectors
Shortly after independence, in 1991, Cabinet approved the establishment of the road transport inspectorate, placed it under the MWTC and tasked it to monitor operators involved in the road transportation of goods and passengers and control overloading of heavy vehicles as well as the transportation of dangerous goods and other ancillary traffic functions related to commercial vehicles.
However, after the commercialisation process, the Roads Authority (RA) was established as a result of the re-structuring of the MWTC through the MWTC 2000 project. The task of the Roads Authority, amongst others, includes managing the roads and preventing excessive damage on our road networks caused by road users.
To ensure that the Roads Authority caries out its task efficiently, 41 road transport inspectors were transferred from Government to the Roads Authority on the first of April 2001. The law that governs road transport inspectors requires them to wear uniforms when performing their duties on public roads. It is thus against this background that 12 September 2001 was the launching date for this uniform to ensure that they are empowered to execute their duties efficiently and promptly in order for them to become the pride of our nation.
The RA has erected weighbridges in various places in the country in an effort to curb and minimise the number of overloaded vehicles on our national roads while similar structures are planned across the country. However, we are of the conviction that the reduction of overloaded vehicles will only be realised when dedicated and disciplined personnel such as road transport inspectors are around 24 hours.
Finally, I would further like to make an appeal to members of the public to cooperate with road transport inspectors when carrying out their duties across the country.
When approached by personnel wearing uniform, respect and treat them well as they are there to reinforce safety on our roads and serve you the road user.??????’??