By Billy Rwothungeyo
In a bid to increase truck drivers’ compliance and further the fight against fraud, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) intends to install networked devices at its weigh bridges at Busitema, Lukaya and Mbale stations.
“We have had several complaints from truckers on a wide range of issues such as delays and corruption at our weigh bridges. This system allows us to monitor activities and record what is going on,” Dan Alinange, UNRA’s head of corporate communications said.
The procurement process for the supply, delivery and commissioning of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) devices at the three stations is underway. If there are no hiccups, the contract will be awarded in June.
The weigh bridge act of 2008 was introduced to safeguard the national road network, whose maintenance cost is ever increasing. However, implementation of the act has often come under criticism.
Two years ago, transporters rose up in arms against the weigh bridge system and petitioned Parliament over the system’s inefficiencies.
Earlier in 2009, then works minister, John Nasasira suspended the system following corruption allegations. Drivers claimed the system was manipulated in order to extort money from them.
With the installation of these networked systems at the Luwero, Mbarara, Mubende and Busia stations, transparency levels increased.
Statistics from UNRA indicate that of the 7,877 vehicles that were weighed at the weigh bridges in the first half of this financial year, 446 were found to be overloaded.
Further figures reveal that between January and March, Busitema weigh bridge station recorded the highest number of axle load regulation violations, while Luwero recorded the highest number of vehicles which were grossly overloaded.
Most of the offenders are truck haulers carrying general merchandise, mainly foodstuffs and building materials destined for South Sudan.
Alinange however, says the onus of maintaining road infrastructure is the responsibility of every stakeholder.
“The onus of complying with the law rests is upon all parties involved in the transportation of freight. These include the operator, consignor and consignee, all of whom suffer the inconvenience from non-compliance,” he said.
Alinange added: “What they (offenders) pay to the Government is very low in relation to the cost of the damage and is not really a deterrent to overloading. Indeed, it favours operators to deliberately overload and pay relatively low fines.”