Nairobi: The legal weight for commercial vehicles using Kenyan roads will be adjusted upwards by 16 per cent in line with other East African countries to ease movement of goods in the common market. East Africa Community director of infrastructure Philip Wambugu said the agreement would see Kenya raise gross vehicle weight limit from 48 (three axles) to 56 tonnes, ending standoff that has persisted for a decade. A uniform axle load for the five East African countries is expected to significantly increase the pace of clearing cargo at the seven weighbridges in Kenya, eventually lowering cost of transportation.
A cargo cleared in any of the countries would now move freely without having to be tested at each weighbridge as has been the case. 'This agreement was critical as it will now lead to efficient logistics for transit transporters who used to suffer the costs of differentiated axle loading limits.' Mr Wambugu said following three-day axle weight harmonisation workshop.
The agreement to harmonise regional axle weight limit comes just weeks after a study on the region’s transport corridors by Padeco Limited, a private consultant, last month linked the Sh630 million transporters lose per hour to different axle weight laws. For instance, the study found that trucks take five days to cover 1,100km from port of Mombasa to Kampala.
Mr Wambugu said along with the ongoing campaign to set up one-stop border post operations in East Africa would reduce logistics costs by up to 50 per cent, making region’s produce more competitive in their export markets.
Kenya, which has lined up several mega road projects in partnership with donors — including 40 under construction at a cost of Sh100 billion — had previously weathered pressure from her partners to increase axle weight limit for commercial vehicles saying the move could raise road maintenance costs.
Roads PS Michael Kamau said even at 48-tonne limit, the cost of maintaining roads was still too high to shoulder without external funding. The country, he added, was currently funding a maintenance bill of 40 major roads at the tune of Sh120 billion. 'Our surveys have also shown that even with the lowest axle load requirement, our roads are still vulnerable with most trucks generally applying the banned 64 tonnes,' Mr Kamau told a recent breakfast meeting organised by Kenya Private Sector Alliance.
The ministry officials said dependence on Mombasa port by traders from landlocked countries in the EAC such as Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi as well as other landlocked neighbours like Southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia — means Kenyan roads are always under pressure even at a lower axle weight.
It is because of this concern and rampant corruption that allow truckers to overload that President Kibaki issued a decree to lower axle from four (64 tonne) to three, reducing the limit of the gross weight of a truck to 48 tonnes.
The agreement means Rwanda and Burundi, which both have an axle load limit of 53 tonnes would also raise theirs to 56 tonnes that Uganda and Tanzania have adopted.
Mr Wambugu, however, said different axle weight loading requirements for each partner state was untenable, slowing trade in a common market launched last year. 'Infrastructure services are an inherent ingredient in the integration agenda. We, therefore, need to be decisive on how we want to promote it,' he said.
The Nairobi workshop, attended by permanent secretaries from the region and private sector representatives, also approved the use of interlinked vehicles in the region’s gazette transit corridors without the requirement of special permits. This type of vehicle is popular with transporters in East Africa because it gives them flexibility in loading, allowing them to optimise on cost of operations.
* Related article: East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, Friday 19 August 2011: A three-day 3rd EAC stakeholders workshop on harmonization of axle load control laws and regulations concluded today at the Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya with jubilation as the two outstanding and critical issues namely the use of Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) on seven standard axles and use of interlinked vehicles were unlocked by all Partner States.
The study on harmonization of axle load control laws and regulations in the EAC being funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) through a Grant to the EAC Secretariat and conducted by PADECO Co. Ltd of Japan identifies 26 issues that needed to be harmonized and agreement had been recorded in 24 areas covering aspects such as legal instrument, calibration of weigh bridges, computerized scales, and standardization of technology. The two outstanding issues that had jammed the harmonization process were the use of gross vehicle mass on seven standard axles and use of interlinked vehicles.
Closing the workshop, the Permanent Secretary in the Kenya’s Ministry of East African Community, Mr. David S.O Nalo, CBS, said unlocking of the two issues was a major milestone as it brought to an end a process of harmonizing axle load control in the region that started way back in 2001, with several technical studies having been done over the period.
Mr. Nalo disclosed that following the break through, the Permanent Secretaries had now directed the respective technical experts and the EAC Secretariat to expedite the development of supporting legal, institutional and operational frameworks for approval by the EAC Council of Ministers to effect the harmonized regulations.
The PS said the implementation of the harmonized vehicle overload control measures was an important activity towards the realization of the East African Common Market. He said reduction of the cost of transport in the region was an issue that had attracted Summit pronouncements due to its implications on the competitiveness of the region as a whole to investors and traders and the well being of the integration process particularly for the landlocked countries.
The PS informed the participants that research shows that a reduction of one hour spent crossing would benefit consumers at the border posts and the region would save US$7 million per annum. He said this amount could offset one year contribution of a Partner State to the Community or contribute significantly to supply clean water to the needy. 'The region cannot therefore afford to continue to lose such amount through inefficiencies. We should at all times work towards reducing the cost of doing business in the region' asserted Mr. Nalo.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Dr. Enos S. Bukuku reaffirmed the Secretariat’s tacit support to the development of a harmonized vehicle overload control regulations in the region. Dr. Bukuku hailed Partner States for their steadfast support in the policy harmonisation processes that the EAC Council of Ministers had approved under the infrastructure sub-sectors. He underscored the ongoing harmonisation process covering the one stop border posts operations and the axle overload control as crucial towards reducing the cost of transport in the region.
Mr. Takao Nakamura on behalf of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) lauded the Partner States for adopting the recommendations towards harmonizing the axle overload control regulations and indicated JICA’s support in other related activities.
Dr. Twagira Elias, the Director General of Rwanda Transport Development Agency in the Ministry of Infrastructure; Mr. Charles Muganzi, the Permanent Secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of Works and Transport; Eng. M.S. M. Kamau, CBS, HSC, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Roads; Eng. Dr. John Ndunguru, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works of the United Republic of Tanzania; and Eng. MSc. Bayihishako Pierre, Director Road Planning in Burundi’s Ministry of Transport, Public Works, and Equipment lead their respective countries’ technocrats at the 3rd and final stakeholders workshop that was chaired by Mr. Willy Madirisha, Director, Internal Transport, Ministry of Transport, Public Works, and Equipment in the Republic of Burundi.
Following interventions and consultations the two issues were resolved as follows:
(i) All the Partner States agreed to adopt a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 56 tonnes on seven standard axles. This agreement was critical as it will now lead to efficient logistics for transit transporters who used to suffer the costs of differentiated axle loading limits. This harmonization, when effected and complemented by the One Stop Border Post operations, and the single window platform has the potential to reduce logistics costs by up to 50% for the region.
(ii) The second critical agreement between the Permanent Secretaries was the approval for the use of interlinked vehicles in the region’s gazette transit corridors without the requirement for special permits. This type of vehicle is popular with transporters as it gives then flexibility in loading and therefore opportunities to optimize on costs of operations.
As a way forward, participants and the consultants undertaking the study agreed, among others, to finalize the report not later than 29 September 2011. A meeting of the High Level Standing Committee would prepare a memorandum on the Final Report for consideration by the Sectoral Council on Transport, Communication and Metrology by 10 October 2011. A meeting of the Sectoral Council on Transport, Communication and Metrology will be held on 17-21 October 2011 to approve the strategy for the implementation of vehicle overload control in the EAC.
The process will then move forward expeditiously with a proposed Regional Vehicle Overload Control Bill to be considered by a multi-sectoral committee meeting, including Justice, Transport, Trade, and Industry ministries, among others. A Multi-sectoral Council of Ministers would be convened to approve the proposed Bill, for forwarding to the Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs and ultimately to the East African Legislative Assembly for debate and enactment into the Community Law. This process is to be completed by April 2012.