Four months into the start of the Island Traffic Authority’s (ITA) Vehicle Weight Enforcement Campaign, truckers are admitting that, over the years, overloading has dealt a serious blow to the country’s roads and bridges.
Trailer driver, Mr. Byron Palmer notes that the theme of the Public Education programme, “Truck Overload Destroys Our Roads” speaks volumes and is right on target. To him this practice not only destroys the roads, but human life and other property, as well.
“Mi agree, cause a nuff time we overload all sand and gravel and dem tings deh, and dem drop in a di road and a dem things deh cause vehicles fi skid. Things like these really cause some serious accidents and damage sometimes, yu nuh,” he says.
With eyes down, he recounts an accident, allegedly caused by aggregates, which last year resulted in a number of fatalities.
This Caribbean Broilers (CB) truck was not spared from being inspected by Inspector Oral Williams and the Island Traffic Authority’s Vehicle Weight Enforcement team, during operations in St. Ann, recently. The operation formed part of ongoing efforts by the ITA to ensure compliance with vehicle weight limits and prevent damage to the nation’s roads as a result of overloading, among other things.
“Jah know, dem say that it was di gravel dem from the truck in di road that cause the people dem to crash yu nuh and, believe me, a carelessness cause that,” he admitted.
Director of the ITA, Mr. Paul Clemetson, shares his sentiments.
“What we have noticed is that the deposit of aggregates, especially along the verges of the roads, occasioned by overweight vehicles has resulted in motorists skidding, vehicles getting out of control, running over culverts, running off the road, generally resulting in serious injuries and there have been fatalities as a consequence,” he explains.
However, the ITA Director points out that this behaviour will not be tolerated, after legislation with more punitive weight enforcement proposals are passed into law.
“The new piece of legislation will place a burden on quarry operators, and suppliers of other products, to ensure that vehicles leave the plants with specified weight limits. If it is found that the vehicle was overloaded by the supplier, the supplier may also be culpable,” he informs.
Mr. Palmer says that though the programme might not be well received by some sectors, everyone stands to benefit. With over eight years of driving trailers and other heavy duty vehicles, this seasoned trailer driver admits that, until recently, he had no real knowledge of what the axle load requirements were.
Enlightenment came when his truck was stopped and weighed and declared overweight by the ITA’s Enforcement Team. He says that he was sternly warned, issued a weight receipt and presented with a brochure on vehicle weight enforcement to study.
Intent on stamping out the harmful practice of overloading, the ITA team has become a common feature on many truck routes. They can be seen with mobile weight scales and brochures in hand, selectively screening and weighing trucks laden with goods, to ensure that they are within prescribed weight limits.
While there are those who laud the new vehicle weight compliance initiative, there are others who are only interested in increasing profitability and scoff at the efforts to curb the practice.
Speaking with JIS News, a truck driver, who only gave his alias as “Waynie”, expressed sheer disgust with the weight enforcement programme.
“Sometime fi mek a money yu affi just load up as much as the truck can tek, because a man affi eat a food. This new thing ya now jus a hamper we progress,” he notes, while his colleagues nod in agreement.
But President of the Port Trailers Association, Mr. Andrew Henry, does not share their view. He believes that haulage companies actually save money if they observe the set weight stipulations, as it can help to reduce spending on vehicle maintenance.
“My suggestion to truckers is that, by not overloading your trucks over the specifications of the manufacturer, this will bring your maintenance costs down, because when you overload a truck you are actually wearing some of the major parts on the truck that when replaced will be at a higher cost. So this will help to reduce costs and help with your total profitability,” he advises.
Senior Highway Engineer of the National Works Agency (NWA), Mr. Rae Parchment, concurs. He notes that this is the case with large trucking companies, who continuously ensure adherence to set weight limits.
“If you talk to the bigger companies that have fleets of trucks, they will tell you that when they operate at the legal load maintenance cost goes down on their vehicles. They don’t break springs and stuff like that anymore, and they don’t have to build up this excess amount of springs to support the overweight. The vehicle burns less fuel, the wear and tear is less, the braking is better, the wear on the clutch is less,” explains Mr. Parchment.
While he has his own set of recommendations on how truckers can be better accommodated, Mr. Henry confesses that wanton disregard for vehicle weight specifications, by truck drivers, has compromised or led to the destruction of many of the nation’s roadways, bridges and culverts.
“We weren’t aware that it was impacting our roads to that extent, until we went into sensitisation meetings where the ministry showed us the data on what it does,” he says.
Mr. Henry proposes that the Government install scales at loading points, to increase adherence, because once there is capability to weigh cargo, truckers will comply.
In response, Mr. Clemetson notes that this would prove an enormous expense for any government. He instead encourages companies that are financially capable to invest in purchasing the scales to protect and, in some ways, extend the life of their vehicles.