17 December 2012

Kenya: Transporters Resist Axle-Load Rule

Nairobi — Transport has been paralyzed at the Kenyan port and most parts of Mombasa town as the Kenyan government began its crackdown on violators of the axle-load limits.

Kenya is currently suffering the brunt of road wear and tear attributted to serious violations of the axle-load limit by both local and regional transporters.

Most trucks transporting cargo from the port to the rest of Kenya and the region kept of the main Mariakani weighbridge gate-away, forcing authorities to rely on private container freight stations to clear cargo from the port and avoid another choking backlog.

The government crackdown has netted several trucks especially at the Mariakani Bridge. This has forced some wayward drivers to use illegal routes to avert the crackdown.

Kenya's government decided on the crackdown in the wake of the reality that even recently repaired roads were already wearing down. The situation is attributed to corruption at weighbridges that has seen crooked officers allow overweight trucks in exchange for handouts from the drivers.

"We want to promote business activities within Kenya and the region. But some rules need to apply. The cost of maintaining these highways are exorbitant and therefore the need for cooperation with the transporters," said Kenya's Permanent Secretary for Transport Eng. James Njiru.

Hefty fines are slapped on trucks found to be flouting the axle-load limit and therefore the reason for some operators to keep off the road for the time being. The fines could go to as high as $5,000.

Reports indicate that some regional importers, especially those from Uganda and Rwanda are expected to seek audience with the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the controversial axle-load rule. The government is at crossroads and torn between promoting free flowing regional trade and safeguarding its highways against the wanton wear and tear.

Most of the East African region bound cargo comes in through the port of Mombasa.

It is transported to the regional countries mainly by road due to a dilapidated and hardly reliable railway transport system.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) sounded a warning in September that the government would crack the whip on those flouting the axle-load rule. Past efforts to implement the rule have however not gone beyond hot air by the government, whose officials charged with implementing the same are accused of corruption.

The Kenya Transporter Association Chairman Paul Maiyo whose organization is against the implementation of the rule confirmed efforts by the operators to meet with top government officials with a view of breaking the stalemate.

"As much as we are not opposed to the law, we want it implemented in a way that is not punitive and is in the best interest of investment and business. As it is now, this law will drive our members out of business, which unacceptable," said Maiyo.

There are however indications that the government is unlikely to back down on the same. The government road maintenance bill has been on a sharp rise prompting measure to ensure that rules are put in place to check the same.

The new development is expected to cause another hue and cry from regional countries among them Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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