Heavy Trucks the Chief Offenders

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By Anna Ingwafa

OSHAKATI

The Roads Authority (RA) has experienced challenges following an increase in commercial transport. This has accelerated the rapid deterioration of the road network and prompted the RA to hold a stakeholder session on overloading of goods and passengers.

The stakeholders’ meeting to address overloading took place at Oshakati last Friday.

The information session was meant to educate and sensitize stakeholders on the permissible loads on vehicles and the effect of overloading on the road network.

RA has found that heavy trucks are mostly the culprits when it comes to overloading and cause the bulk of the damage to the country’s overstretched road network.

As a result, the RA created a platform and organised operators’ information sessions at different towns and engaged them in discussion regarding the matter.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Roads Authority Erastus Ikela says a survey to gauge the overloading of the road network by the Roads Authority’s road transport inspection services back in 2001, estimated 28 percent of heavy goods vehicles were overloaded.

This has been reduced to 10 percent on the section of the road where there are weighbridges.

“Although there has been a significant reduction in overloading on road sections with existing weighbridges, it has been observed that operators are increasingly loading their vehicles within the allowable five percent.

“The Roads Authority is therefore of the view that operators at their place of origin load their vehicles above the 5 percent tolerance with the knowledge that the vehicles will be within the 5 percent tolerance at the weighbridge after the weight of fuel has been put into consideration,” said Ikela.

He called on operators to load their vehicles within the legal limit as 5 percent tolerance is provided to accommodate the movement of the load during the journey.

Moreover, overloaded and over-dimensioned vehicles not only cause considerable damage to the road infrastructure, but also contribute to the serious problem of maintaining road safety on the roads.

Overloaded vehicles with over or under-inflated tyres cause more damage to the road than overloaded ones with correctly inflated tyres. It is therefore essential that tyres are inflated according to the manufacturer’s specification, according to Ikela.

“Heavy vehicle operators that do not overload are placed at a disadvantage as they cannot compete fairly with unscrupulous operators that follow a policy of deliberate overloading. It is therefore in the interest of all road users including goods transporters that all reasonable steps are taken to minimize the deterioration of our roads,” he said.

With the view to repair the roads that have been damaged, the RA has started with the marginal widening of trunk road 1/9 between Otavi and Tsumeb, which was in poor condition. Among others, the contributing factor for such condition being the damage caused by overloaded vehicles.

The section of the road will cost approximately N$12 million and is expected to be completed by end of December 2008.

It further embarked upon a two-year surface remedial works for the bitumen resurfacing and resealing of road networks in the north, which commenced in 2007.

This covers, amongst others, resealing with rubber bitumen the road between Oshakati and Okahao and resealing works on the road between Oshivelo-Ondangwa-Oshakati, Omungwelume and Oshikuku-Outapi.

This two-year project will cost approximately N$23,945 million.

He called for cooperation from all road users as the company is trying to control the menace of overloading and subsequent damage to the road infrastructure.

Ikela singled out a big challenge of some operators extending bribes to weighbridge officials to avoid apprehension.

He cautioned such operators that they are committing a serious offence and will be exposed and face the law. “We have recently implemented a hotline for road users and the general public to report, amongst others, corrupt activities of officials at weighbridges.

I therefore urge you to report any official of the Roads Authority who asks money or any favour from you in the performance of his/her duty, as we have no room for corrupt officials in our organisation,” Ikela cautioned.

Ikela further called on members of the public not to pay or send fines to RA as fines can only be paid to the clerk of the court or the police in the area where the offence took place.

RA continues to inform transporters especially new ones of the serious consequences of overloading and at the same time to give some guidelines where necessary on loading of vehicles in order to make full use of permitted loading while still avoi-ding overloading.

He called for the cooperation of all road users, especially goods transporters in complying with the vehicle load limit as it is vital to road infrastructure.

Under Section 16 of the Roads Authority Act, 1999, the authority has been delegated to manage the proclaimed road network. It takes the responsibility of planning, constructing and maintaining roads that are part of the national road network and, inter alia, prevent the excessive damage to roads by road users and other parties.

To curb the effect of overloading on the pavements and improve road safety on public roads, the Roads Authority initiated a five-year weighbridge construction programme which was endorsed by Cabinet in 2000.

“The seven weighbridges under the programme have been completed at Onhuno, Walvis Bay, Brakwater, Aris and Katima Mulilo. The construction of Rundu and Gobabis weighbridges is envisaged to commence in the near future when funds become available,” he said.

Several stakeholders were present at the session and posed questions regarding Roads Authority legislation on overloading.

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