Kampala: Controversy is brewing among the East Africa Community member states over weighing of trucks, with some countries preferring the axle weight system over the gross weight. For the past two months, Kenyan transporters ferrying goods into Uganda claim they have been arrested and charged for overloading, after their trucks were weighed based on axles, contrary to Kenya where they are measured in gross weight.
“Lack of harmonisation of these laws is proving costly especially for the Kenyan transporter who is being subjected to different requirements within the EAC region,” Kenya Transport Association (KTA) chief executive Jane Njeru said.
KTA, the umbrella association for transporters in Kenya, went to court in September last year and obtained an order barring the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) from weighing trucks on axle load. However, this rule is only applicable within Kenya. In other EAC countries, the trucks are subjected to the axle system.
Where a truck is allowed to carry 48 tonnes in Kenya, for example, a penalty may be imposed on axle weight even though the gross weight is within limit.
In Uganda, dozens of trucks are routinely impounded after failing to comply with axle load limits especially at the Busitema weighbridge, located about 40 kilometres into Uganda from Malaba border, KTA said.
“These are part of the non-tariff barriers that have continued to hinder trade. Our members are incurring massive losses in terms of lost trips as a result of time wasted at various weighbridges along the Northern Corridor,” Ms Njeru added.
Speaking on phone from Kampala, the chairman of Kenya Heavy Commercial Vehicle Workers Union, Mohamed Bahero, said once they cross the Malaba border there is always confusion.
“These issues must be sorted out because when trucks are impounded we are the ones who suffer,” he said. Truck drivers have also protested at the Namanga and Taveta posts on the Kenya-Tanzania border over delays and inefficiencies.
“It does not make sense for the EAC states to make statements after arriving at a decision at conferences and not implement them. We want to see what they agree upon being implemented on the ground,” Mr Bahero added.
The complaints come even as Rwanda, which bears the brunt of delays and inefficiencies, threatened to go to court over NTBs that have continued to persist despite EAC countries committing to eliminate them. Rwanda’s Minister for EAC Monique Mukarulinza said they had prepared draft legislation for elimination of NTBs that will be submitted to the Sectoral Council of Ministers in charge of Trade and Investment.
Recently, EAC member states adopted a One Stop Border Post Bill, which was aimed at improving trade relations and eradicating NTBs in the region.
The system is expected to eliminate the current practice that involves checks on both sides of a border between two partner states. For example, at the Kenya-Uganda Malaba border, trucks wait for up to three days to be cleared by the Customs authorities on both sides.
Tanzania and Kenya also agreed to reduce roadblocks from 30 to 15 in the Northern Corridor and from 36 to five in the Central Corridor. But since elimination of NTBs does not have a legal backing, EAC countries have been dithering over implementation of various agreements that have been entered.
“The EAC should clarify on the official position on axle load control in the spirit of the Common Market Protocol for free movement of goods and services in the region,” Ms Njeru noted.
A recent study identified harmonisation of regulations in the East Africa region as key in cutting down the cost of transport along the Northern Corridor. Delays at the weighbridges and border crossing along the various transport corridors in the East Africa region costs the economies a huge fortune, the report said.
“A conservative estimate is that each one-hour reduction in such crossing time would bring US $ 7 million (Sh630 million) per year in benefits to the EAC region,” the study, Harmonization of vehicle overload control in the East African Community, which was funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and carried out by Padeco Co. Limited said.
The study was launched in December 2010 and proposed urgent harmonisation of regional axle load and overload control systems. The current practice of different axle load and gross vehicle weight limits among the partner states is one of the major factors impeding efficient transport within the region, it noted.