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Penalties for overloading "ridiculous".

The current legal system which imposes penalties on transport operators who are guilty of overloading, is not working as the fines are "ridiculously" low and does not match the damage caused to roads, according to the Roads Authority (RA).

The revision of the RA's Overload Control Strategy therefore aims to address current shortcomings and is aimed at assessing the strategic location of weighbridges, whether some weighbridges need to be shifted to other locations as well as identifying busy times, days and months to facilitate proper operational coverage.

"Apart from being the main cause of road damage, overloading should be discouraged at all costs as it removes fair competition within the industry. Unscrupulous transport operators create some advantages for themselves over law-abiding operators by being able to move larger quantities of cargo at fairer prices than their competitors, thus becoming more attractive on the market. Furthermore, the consequences of their actions are spread among all players in the field, thus sharing the related increase in overheads with innocent competitors, in the long run. Funds that were earmarked for new projects would also end up being diverted to maintain damaged roads, thus negatively affecting the national economy," Hileni Fillemon, public relations officer at the RA, told the Economist.

She said overloading is still a problem as it is easy for transport operators to avoid weigh-bridges by either using alternative routes without weighbridges or move consignments during times when weighbridges are closed.

Namibia currently only has nine weighbridges in areas such as Katima Mulilo; Oshivelo; Onhuno; Walvis Bay; Brakwater; Aris; Ariamsvlei; Noordoewer and Rosh Pinah. This leaves other routes such as Swakopmund to Rundu; Rundu via Katwitwi to Angola, amongst others, exposed. Due to resource constraints, most of the weigh-bridges also only operate for 16 hours per day.

Fillemon further said it is also challenging to get transport operators to regulate themselves and to convince them that the non-punishable 5% tolerance above legal masses is still overloading and causes damage to roads.

"The 5% tolerance is an unlegislated gentleman's agreement between RA and transport operators. Of late, transport operators are loading their vehicles to an extent of deliberately making use of the tolerance which is there specifically to cater for unpreventable shift in loads, minor error in loading, etc. Selfregulation will also only be possible when transport operators have the understanding that roads are there for their own benefit and the benefits derived from overloading is only beneficial in the short run and that when roads have deteriorated to unacceptable levels, their operating costs will also drastically rise to consume whatever benefits derived from overloading," she added.

A study conducted in 2009 on the decriminalisation of overloading, showed that damage to the road network constitutes an average annual amount of N$17 783 292.50 over a period of four years.

To curb the damage caused by overloading, information sessions are held with transport operators where the negative consequence of overloading are explained. Pamphlets on overloading are also distributed at weighbridges.

CLEMENCIA JACOBS

UNDERSTUDY@ECONOMIST.COM.NA
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Title Annotation:Auto News & Transport Services
Author:Jacobs, Clemencia
Publication:Namibia Economist (Windhoek, Namibia)
Date:Nov 26, 2010
Words:504
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