By: Lakshmi Kothaneth and Khalid Al Kush
MUSCAT: Transport companies in Muscat have expressed concern over the plans to implement the new rules on truck weightage by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. “We are just not rejecting the regulation but we have our concerns that it would bring hardships to lots of people. In addition to the cost, there would be an added pressure on the road traffic. We have voiced our concerns to the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the companies have been given 25 per cent concession on the weightage, but we are still not happy,” said Khalid Salem al Dara’i, head of Oman Association for Transportation.
Companies dealing with cement, crushers, mining, marble and shipping among others are some of the businesses who have voiced their concerns about the new regulation. The importers and traders in the country are still coping with issues related to transition of commercial operations from Port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat to Sohar Port.
Some of the grievances were raised at a gathering at Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry last week.
As per the provision of Article No 37 of the Executive Regulation of the Traffic Law issued by a Royal Decree, transporters will be declared violating rules depending upon the axial weights and not on the gross weight of the truck.
According to the ministry, the maximum load of each truck driven with a single axle should not exceed eight tonnes. At the same time the gross maximum weight for any vehicle driven with non-single axis should not exceed 13 tonnes. The ideal gross weight of any tandem axle of any vehicle should not be more than 21 tonnes as per the new regulation. The total gross weight on the road by any vehicle driven by tri axle should not be more than 32 tonnes. The ministry and ROP have allowed variation factor of 25 per cent of the total weight of the gross weight of the vehicle axis as of the end of 2015.
While speaking to the Observer, Al Dara’i said the industry representatives would like to have a dialogue between the private sector entities comprising of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Royal Oman Police, Ministry of Financial Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Manpower, Public Authority for Consumer Protection in addition to the organisations that have been effected by the new weightage regulation.
“The representatives feel the regulating authority did not alert companies and institutions about the intentions before applying the rule. In most companies the new situation has created disorder as they have contracts locally and internationally with other companies,” added the head of Oman Association for Transportation.
Overloading of trucks is one of the leading problems of the industry globally. In addition to the dangers posed by heavy trucks one of the main concerns for the authorities have been the trucks’ impact on the roads and their maintenance.
The transportation industry also voiced their concern that the new move can have its share on the cost for the common man. “The need for more vehicles, back log at ports can all lead to higher cost for products by the time they reach the shelves,” highlighted another concerned industry representative.
Nasser bin Ali al Jabri, General Manager, Desert Enterprises, a company that supplies raw materials for cement production, said the new regulation is related to a law ratified in 1989 and stated reduction of truck weight from 90 tonnes (15 tonnes dead truck weight and 75 tonnes of load) to a total weight of 36 tonnes. The truck weight was reduced by half regardless of the fact that modern trucks are manufactured in a way that considers the effect on the road. “Is it fair to apply a law that was devised on the basis of outdated truck specifications that are incomparable to those of modern-day trucks,” Al Jabri questioned. He added, “It should have been taken into consideration that modern-day trucks have the ability to carry 70 tonnes without damaging the road.
“For instance, as a result of the new regulation the cost of gypsum transportation rose by 75 per cent, which in turn has affected the production of gypsum in Al Wusta badly. The reason given for reducing truck weight has been the effect they cause on roads, however, there are old roads that have never been affected by truck weight,” Al Jabri said, pointing out that this decision is unconvincing particularly at a time when the economy is suffering from the impact of falling oil prices.
“The decision should have been preceded by discussion to agree on the appropriate mechanisms for its application and to avoid the shock it causes to the economy and the business environment,” Al Jabri said.
“The mining and construction materials sectors have borne the brunt of that regulation while other sectors such as fuel and sewerage were not affected at all. The increase in the prices of construction materials not only affects the entire real estate sector but, most importantly, the consumers as the suppliers and traders get the same profit margin,” Al Jabri said.
Another victim of the regulation are the small and medium enterprises especially the small companies working in the fields of transport and construction equipment rental. “It is unfortunate that it was ill-timed. Coming into place only two years after the decisions taken at the Saih al Shamikhat where SMEs symposium went into effect,” reflected Al Jabri. Industry members said that truck and cargo backlog at the Sohar Port will be a normal scene as the trucks used to carry two containers will be now allowed to carry one.
“Another downside of the regulation could be that diesel subsidies will increase by 40 to 50 per cent from the current RO 750 million,” said Al Jabri worried about future situation on subsidies.
Supporting the move on regulation, experts said, “We should have had weigh bridges long time ago in the country. It is extremely important for road safety and maintenance.”
The damage on the roads are felt when one drives on the Muscat Expressway (right lane) from Mawaleh to Bidbid. So is the case with the track to Qantab, an area that is seeing a big movement of construction trucks causing serious damages to the road network.
SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBSERVER