Any damage to roads should be minimised

By: Lakshmi Kothaneth

MUSCAT: The Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) yesterday organised a meeting to discuss the system used in defining the weight of trucks on main roads in the Sultanate. The meeting was attended by representatives of transport companies, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Manpower, Royal Oman Police (ROP), businessmen, transport and crusher companies.

Speaking on the occasion, Salim bin Mohammed al Nuaimi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, said Oman’s standardisation of weightage is still high compared to other countries.

He pointed out that the decision is an old one that was recommended in 1993 as part of the Traffic Law but was only applied now.

Al Nuaimi pointed out that the number of trucks and vehicles on roads is growing every year due to the demand for transport of goods. The total number of trucks as of the end of 2014 stood at 80,000 compared to 58,000 in 2008; an annual increase by 6.8 per cent and added that trucks constitute 6.6 per cent of the total number of vehicles on roads.

Chairman of OCCI Said bin Saleh al Kiyumi said the meeting comes in response to the demands of many private sector companies to discuss the law.

He said the chamber will discuss with all parties concerned for smooth operation of the sector.

The panel discussion began with a presentation by Khalid bin Nasser al Tobi representing the transportation sector in which he pointed out that the decision will raise the cost of transportation affecting the consumers. Besides, he pointed out that most of the trucks had the capacity to carry the weight.

“This decision will slow down the work on major infrastructure projects such as ports. The timing is not right because we still do not have the railway project in place. At this point it can affect Omani economy’s competitiveness especially when it comes to exporting to other GCC countries,” said Al Tobi.

The transportation sector also voiced their concern on the fines slammed by the Royal Oman Police. “The fine is the same amount whether it is a few kilograms extra or a tonne.”

The under-secretary of land transport explained most of the trucks were overweight. He cited examples of areas that have been affected are Thamrait and Nizwa. He said heavy containers and trucks coming out of quarries cause the biggest damage as seen in Nizwa.

Al Nuaimi added that heavily-loaded trailers slow down the traffic flow as well. “Roads of Oman are for everyone in the country – businessmen and citizens. Before applying the decision in 2012 in coordination with the ROP the Ministry of Transportation and Communications observed whether the trucks do cause damage. The evaluation took six months. In September 2012, the ministry began to apply the rule. The fine is given if the weight is more than 25 per cent of the limit,” explained Al Nuaimi.

The focus in the second round of discussions moved on to roads themselves and their maintenance. “Maybe we should pay more attention to the quality of the roads,” said Al Tobi, who is partner of Premier International Projects.

This time around the OCCI invited a road construction expert from Shell Oman Marketing Company to talk about that aspect. Describing the wearing, binder and base courses, he said top down cracking has not been historically seen in Oman but is prevalent now. “Depression with trucks and millions of vehicles on the same roads cause deformation. Too many vehicles, oxidation of bitumen, and design can cause distress,” said the expert.

The expert highlighted the fact that in addition to rain and busy routes high temperature can also affect asphalt. “Intervening at the right time is what matters by using modifying binders,” he concluded.

Speaking to omanobserver.om Khalid al Tobi further said, “We have addressed our concerns in relation to adjusting the load of the trucks by 46 tonnes with a variation rate of 25 per cent. We wanted to address the consequences of implementing this decision – economic, social and consumer indications as well as the negative impacts for the end users, general safety of transportation as well as the increase in the number of trucks on the road.”

The concern however has been on the cost of maintenance of the road network that is also used by the general public. “We have to maintain and prolong the life of the roads but we have to think about the timing. We need to address the issues and we want to come to a mutual agreement. The transportation sector feels we are not ready yet because the existing trucks are heavy loads and to make it into half is affecting the investors negatively.”

Meanwhile fines have been issued for trucks that have exceeded weight limits.

“Fines have been issued to transporters but we think there should be a proper weighing system in place,” said Al Tobi. Other members of the business community say there should be more weighing stations in the country to streamline the new regulation.

SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBSERVER

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