Dar es Salaam — Transporters in the country are not happy with the newly-adopted East Africa Community Vehicle Load Control Act, 2016, saying it will not only wipe them out of the business but also make the Dar es Salaam Port less attractive.
Transporters are surprised by the government's move to adopt the law knowing full well that its provisions on the limit of cargo weight are not in line with those enforced by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
But the Works, Transport and Communications Minister, Isack Kamwelwe told a local radio station in the city yesterday morning that the law seeks to protect Tanzania's roads from being damaged by heavy trucks.
"In Tanzania, the gross weight for a vehicle to pass through our roads is 56 tonnes. In Kenya, it is 54 tonnes while South Africa allows a gross weight of 51 tonnes. In Europe, it is 46 tonnes,"
The minister said studies have indicated that the size of the tyre that touches the road matters when it comes to vehicle weight and damage to roads, hence the need to come up with the new law.
The law, passed in 2017, aims at protecting roads by curbing overloading. Vehicles with a gross weight of 3,500kg and over have to go through every weighbridge along their route. The weight in axle of super single tyres has been lowered to 8.5 tonnes, from 10 tonnes. The law slaps a $15,000 (about Sh35 million) fine or three-year jail term or both for contravening the weight rules.
But transporters say the gross weight stipulated in the law puts Tanzania's ports at a disadvantage within Sadc.
"This is as good as telling countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia and Malawi not to use our port," Tanzania Association of Transporters Vice-President, Omar Kiponza told The Citizen yesterday.
The Vice chairman for Tanzania Truck Owners Association (Tatoa), Mr Elias Lukumay said Tanzania has every reason to prioritise Sadc because the lion's share of goods passing through the Port of Dar es Salaam are destined to DRC, Zambia, Malawi and partly to Zimbabwe.
"In short, 70 per cent of goods passing through our ports are destined for these countries. Much as we are in the East African Community (EAC), we should have to make our decisions in line with where we do much of our business," Mr Lukumay said on the radio yesterday.
He said President John Magufuli's administration, through Tanzania's Ports Authority (TPA), has done a wonderful job of marketing the country's ports, resulting into an increase in goods passing through the country's main sea gateway.
He however said that it was due to some few remaining challenges that despite Tanzania's geographical advantage towards countries like the DRC, Zambia and Malawi, 60 per cent of goods into the three countries were still passing through other ports, including South Africa's.
"This is why we have to be extra careful when implementing a law such as this. In fact, transporters in Zambia have already written to members of Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association, informing them that they will stop using our port," he said.
Transporters, said Mr Lukumay, need up to three years to align their operations to the new law.
"A truck owner needs at least $8,000 (about Sh18 million) to change the tyres for one vehicle to be in line with the new law. You can imagine what it means to someone who operates 100 trucks. It is not something that we can be told to do just within five months. We have been investing in these trucks for over 20 years now," he said.
Apart from curbing overloading, the East Africa Community Vehicle Load Control Act, 2016 also aims at reducing road accidents. There are also other categories apart from the abnormal load that needs special permits. These are awkward load, hazardous load, super load and unstable load.
Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan are already implementing the law. With Tanzania on board, the only member of the EAC not implementing it is Burundi.
Tanzania has begun implementing the law and some transporters are already facing stiff penalties for contravening its provisions. According to The East African newspaper, more than 3,000 trucks owned by Tanzanian transporters have been held at various weighbridges under the orders of the Tanzania National Roads Agency (Tanroads).