A threat by truck owners across Tanzania to park their vehicles starting today appears to have done little to make the government rescind its decision to abolish a five per cent allowable weight tolerance for overloaded cargo at weighbridges.
Truck owners have reiterated their resolve to make good on their threat, unless they reach some form of consensus on the matter with the Works minister Dr John Magufuli.
Martine Ntemo, the Works ministry’s spokesperson, said in a telephone interview, that the agreement reached by the Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATOA) and the then Infrastructure ministry way back in 2006 on the five per cent allowable weight tolerance “took into the small number of weighbridges and the rough state of roads in the country at the time”.
He said the government has decided to end the weight tolerance largely because the country now boasts much better roads and a big enough number of weighbridges.
“The agreement made in 2006 has been overtaken by events and cannot be applicable any more because there is no more reason for us to go on tolerating overloaded cargo at our weighbridges,” argued Ntemo.
“The government’s stand is that, with immediate effect, transporters must to adhere to the provisions of The Road Traffic Act, 1973, the Road Traffic Act Cap. No. 168 and the Road Traffic (Maximum Weight of Vehicles) Regulations, 2001,” he added.
He said the government has started implementing its decision, “and, if truck owners indeed make good on their boycott threat today, it will be understood that they have ulterior motives best known to themselves”.
“This is precisely because, considering the East African context, Tanzania allows for a higher maximum road cargo weight (56 tonnes) than either Kenya and Uganda – where it is 54 tonnes in both,” he added.
The Works ministry declared in a recent public notice that any vehicle found with excess cargo, even within the five per cent allowable weight range, would be required to offload the excess cargo, readjust the cargo or pay a penalty equivalent to four times the normal penalty of 100 USD (over 160,000/-) per tonne.
However, TATOA spokesperson Elias Lukumay suggested in a statement released at the weekend that the minister responsible for roads had abolished a directive issued through a letter with Ref. No CKA/16/419/09 of July 19, 2006 that reportedly exempted from penalty all overloaded cargo trucks within the five per cent excess weight allowed by law.
“In 2006, former Infrastructure Development minister Basil Mramba endorsed the five-tonne allowance because a joint study established that readings of weighbridges for the same truck at Dar es Salaam, Kibaha, Chalinze, Mikese and Makambako would differ. There would be a variation of 1 or 1.5 tonnes, and this convinced the minister to give the excess five tonnes cargo allowance,” noted Lukumay.
The TATOA official explained that the boycott supposed to take effect beginning today “is not about protesting the government’s decision but is aimed at forestalling unnecessary inconvenience at weighbridges that could fuel corruption”.
“What the boycott effectively means is that all our trucks will remain parked at whatever point they will be by Monday until further notice,” he said, without hinting on the inconveniences the move could cause in the event of some trucks hindering the general flow of traffic.
This paper has recently noticed an unusually big number of trucks lined up at some weighbridges in different parts of the country, sometimes the queues up to two kilometres long, apparently because of snail’s pace at which they are cleared. Mikese Weighbridge in Morogoro Region is especially notorious.