Tanzanian transport operators fear that, with a new Act implemented across East Africa, traffic through the Tanzanian Dar es Salaam port could be redirected to South Africa
The East African countries established the East African Community Vehicle Load Control Act 2016, which has already been adopted by a number of countries including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. The goal of the Act is to curb overloading and associated damage to roads while reducing the number of road accidents.
Tanzania was the most recent country to introduce the Act, which went into full effect on January 1. Joseph Nyamhanga, president secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication of Tanzania, announced the implementation of the Act in July, 2018. Burundi is the only remaining East African country to not implement the Act.
Under the new legislation, vehicles with a gross weight of 3 500 kg or more need to be weighed at every weighbridge on their route. The weight in axle of super-single tyres is also lowered to 8,5 t from ten tonnes. There is also a new demerit point system with the cost of detention at weighbridge parking increasing from US$ 20 (R279) to US$ 50 (R697).
Failure to comply with the newly implemented legislation could see transport operators face hefty fines of up to
US$ 15 000 (R209 035), a three-year jail sentence, or both.
When the implementation of the Act was announced, The Guardian, published in Tanzania, reported Nyamhanga as saying: “This is why we have set ample time of at least four months in order for all transporters in the country to read and understand the Act well. We will not entertain any excuses when the regulations come into force.”
However, Eneu Mrutu, secretary general of the Tanzania Bus Owners Association (TABOA), as quoted by The Gaurdian, said: “We, as transporters, were not consulted. As a result, the regulations appear to favour some countries while oppressing others.”
According to Mrutu, buses in Kenya and Uganda do not need to go through the same weighing process. He also argued that, without the necessary amendments, the new legislation will increase the cost of transporting cargo in the country.
Transport operators have also expressed concern regarding how the Act might impact on the Tanzanian transport industry. According to an article by Khalifa Said in The Citizen, published in Tanzania, transporters believe the new legislation will put them out of business and make the Dar es Salaam Port less attractive.
Reportedly, the cargo weight limit in Tanzania differs from those enforced by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which includes South Africa. Tanzanian transport operators believe that it puts Tanzanian ports at a disadvantage and will discourage neighbouring countries from using these ports.
Said quotes Elias Lukumay, vice chairman for Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATAO) who argues that Tanzania should prioritise SADC rules as the majority of goods passing through Dar es Salaam ports are destined for the region.
“In short, 70 percent of goods passing through our ports are destined for these countries. As much as we are in the East African community, we should have to make our decisions in line with where we do most of our business,” Lukumay said.
Lukumay further noted that, despite Tanzania’s favourable location, around 60 percent of goods into countries, like Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were still passing through other ports (including South African ports), because of some remaining challenges in Tanzania.
He argues that implementing the new law could impact on the attractiveness of Tanzanian ports. According to Lukumay, TATAO has already received letters from Zambian transport operators indicating that they will no longer be using ports in Tanzania. He further argued that transport operators needed up to three years to align their operations.
“A truck owner needs at least US$ 8 000 (R111 286) to change the tyres on one vehicle to comply with the new law. You can imagine what it means to someone who operates 100 vehicles. It is not something that we can be told to do in just five months. We have been investing in these trucks for over 20 years now,” Lukumay explained.
Since the implementation of the Act, an estimated 3 000 trucks have been held at various weighbridges throughout Tanzania for contravening the law.
Rosie Mirembe reports for the media publication The East African: “Tanzania Association of Transporters vice president Omar Kiponza has appealed for their release, saying that they had already been on the road when the law came into force. Some are from neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and may not have been aware of the legislation, due to the disruptions caused by the recently concluded elections.”
Despite the outrage, Isack Kamwelwe, Minister of Works, Transport and Communications of Tanzania, said that the government has already incurred costs to ensure the new law gets adopted.
Kiponza, however, argues that it will have dire consequences for the Tanzanian economy and asked for more time in which to comply.
Hellen Nachilongo, in an article for The Citizen published in Tanzania, quoted Kiponza: “The law must be put aside for two years as transport operators phase out the super-single-tyre trailers in their fleet. These vehicles account for 95 percent of all trucks in the country.”
Tanzania is not the only country where transport operators have struggled with the new East African Community Vehicle Load Control Act. In March 2018, Taddeo Bwambale reported for news organisation New Vision that the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) will recover over UGX 3,5 billion (R13 million) from the 129 trucks impounded for overloading only a month after the Act was implemented.
Bwambale reported that, according to Reuben Byaruhanga, the director for road infrastructure protection at UNRA, the organisation already received UGX 420 million (R1,5 million) in fines. These fees could contribute to road construction and maintenance, which is very expensive in Uganda.
Building one kilometre of tarmac in Uganda, reportedly, costs US$ 1 million (R13 million) with the country spending around US$ 64 million (R890 million) on maintenance. In 2008, Uganda saw rapid deterioration of major roads. About 100 000 vehicles were checked annually and, at that time, 54 percent of trucks examined were heavily overloaded.
Under the new Act, the lowest fine for Ugandan transporters (for 500 kg excess load) is US$ 90 (R1 252), while the maximum fine is US$ 145 900 (R2 million) for an excess load of 31,5 t. There is also an option to auction off the truck and cargo if fines are not cleared within 60 days.
As transport operators in East Africa work to comply with this new legislation, South African transport operators and ports need to prepare for a potential increase on goods travelling through the country.