Used truck buyers may find themselves facing hefty fines from the Kenya National Highways Authority for overloading offences committed by the trucks long before they acquired them.
KeNHA, whose virtual weighstations on major highways capture vehicle number plates and images of the overloaded trucks and send them to the agency's control center where they are kept for up to seven years, says many owners are caught unawares when the trucks are impounded and charged for past overloading offences. The fines can run into millions of shillings.
There are 13 unmanned weighstations across the country that allow overloaded trucks to pass but record their details, which are then used by KeNHA's mobile patrol units to trace the trucks. If they are not nabbed, the trucks are impounded when they pass through any of the 11 static weighbridges in the country.
Some trucks that have largely used only routes where there are virtual weighstations make multiple offences before finally being flagged down by KeNHA after they have accumulated fines running into hundreds of thousands -- or even millions -- of shillings.
KeNHA assistant director for axle load control Michael Ngala said the records are stored in the systems for up to seven years, meaning the offending trucks may have changed hands when they are finally caught.
"It should be part of your due diligence when buying a truck that has been used locally because when we finally catch it, we will not relate the age of the offence and the ownership. Our culprit is the truck and when we impound it all the pending fees will have to be paid before it is released," Mr Ngala told the Sunday Nation in an interview.
He said some trucks are caught years after ownership has changed, like one that was found with Sh2 million in pending fines last year, months after the owner had sold it to a different person.
The law requires that all vehicles weighing above 3.5 tonnes have to pass through weighbridges along the highways. Trucks pay up to Sh400,000 for a single offence of overloading which has exceeded 10 tonnes, meaning a repeat offender could have pending fees running into millions. An excess load of one kilogramme costs about Sh10,000 in fees.
Kenya allows trucks to carry a maximum of eight tonnnes on each axle, with the maximum tonnage capped at 56 to reduce road damage, whose expenses have been rising in recent years.
The highways authority receives the lion's share of the Sh69 billion road maintenance levy contributed by motorists while buying fuel.
The agency has a network spanning over 18,000 kilometres. It has 10 virtual and 11 static weighstations.
KeNHA now plans to set up 13 new virtual weighstations in major highways, including at Malaba, Mau Summit, Kajiado, Malili and Eldama Ravine, to tame the vices that also increase environmental pollution and risk lives through accidents.
Mr Ngala said the agency is also engaging vehicle owners to keep an eye on some of their rogue drivers who overload and use off-highway routes to avoid being caught.