Fresh information shows that transporters on the Central Corridor now save up to 78 per cent of weighbridge stoppage times, thanks to an April directive by Tanzanian President John Magufuli for transit trucks to stop only three times instead of eight at weighbridges in the country.
The announcement, by the Central Corridor Transit Transportation Facilitation Agency (CCTTFA), comes hardly a month after members of the East African Business Council (EABC) highlighted several issues, including delays in clearing goods, corruption and theft at the Port of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.
According to the agency, its own analysis revealed that from June 2015 to April 2016 transporters spent an average of 222.4 minutes (3.42 hours) on weighbridges between Dar-es-Salaam and the borders between Tanzania and Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda up to DR Congo.
"Since President Magufuli's pronouncement in April that transit trucks and buses should only weigh at Vigwaza (Coast Region), Njuki (Singida) and Nyakahura (Shinyanga), they now spend only 48 minutes, which is 22 per cent of the time they lost before," said Faraja Mgwabati, the CCTTFA communications officer.
But there is a new hurdle.
According to the agency, for transit trucks or buses to stop only at the three weighbridges, they need to obtain special stickers designed by the Tanzanian Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications at $40 each, paid once.
However, according to CCTTFA, as of July 28 only 254 transit trucks had obtained the stickers, representing less than 2 per cent of the total of 13,000 transit trucks registered by government.
Issa Mugarura, vice-president of Rwanda's Truck Drivers Association (ACPLRWA), said, initially, following President Magufuli's directive soon after his last visit to Rwanda, things changed for the better as trucks would only be weighed at the three points.
"But now, surprisingly, I have talked to a driver who arrived here today from Dar and he informs me that he passed through all the eight weighbridges. And, at some of them, he claims that they were cheating on the tonnage measurements," said Mugarura.
"When I last travelled the same route, roughly two weeks ago, I stopped at only three weighbridges and used only three days to reach Kigali. This driver left Dar last Friday and arrived today (yesterday). These new developments are not good for business."
Mugarura said he had no knowledge about the stickers and has never used them.
A private sector official in Kigali, who preferred anonymity, said introduction of the $40 transit sticker inconveniences transporters in terms of costs.
"When bridges were reduced the intention was to ease transport and encourage seamless flow of traffics but with the stickers introduced it means more lines in acquiring these services," the official said.
Besides, according to the Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATOA), the stickers only consider one route per truck or bus disregarding that some trucks could change routes depending on the destination of the cargo, therefore creating a situation where a single truck will need multiple stickers.
Asked to comment about the apparent inconvenience caused by the stickers, Mgwabati said: "The board discussed the issue of stickers and $40 and agreed that the decision will be evaluated and the government of Tanzania will make a decision whether it is still viable to have stickers or to remove them. We are optimistic that the government will remove the stickers."
Tanzania takes over
Meanwhile, Tanzania yesterday assumed the chairmanship of the Board of Directors of the CCTTFA from Rwanda.
The Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications, Dr Leonard Chamuriho, took over from Rwanda's Christian Rwakunda, during the first day of the 11th Ordinary Board of Directors meeting held in Dar es Salaam.
The meeting, which ends today, will be followed by the 7th Interstate Council of Ministerial (ICM) tomorrow.
The Chairmanship of the Council and the Board rotates annually among member states. The board meets twice a year although they may hold extraordinary meetings upon request of any member state.
The Central Corridor is a collection of transport routes connecting Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and Uganda to the Tanzanian port of Dar-es-Salaam.
According to CCTTFA, other weighbridges installed between Dar es Salaam and the western borders include Mikese (Morogoro), Kihonda (Morogoro), Nala (Dodoma), Mwendakulima (Shinyanga), and Kyamyolwa and Mutukula (Kagera).