With government allocating billions of tax-payer Rands to upgrade our roads infrastructure over the next three years, the truck transport industry will have to pull out all the stops to comply with overloading control regulations to avoid costly legal penalties and to prevent a public outcry. FleetWatch summarises the KwaZulu-Natal Overload Report for 2010 which clearly shows that overload control and compliance are improving year-on-year, but there are still those rogue operators out there who flout the law and bring the industry into disrepute.
The demise of South Africa’s freight-by-rail service has been something of a mixed blessing for the road freight industry. On the one hand, truck transporters have benefitted financially with haulage contracts shifting from rail to road. On the other hand, the number of trucks on our roads has increased, placing a heavy burden on our deteriorating road network and sparking the ire of the general public who blame heavy trucks for the damage done to our nation’s road pavement.
With Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan allocating R10.3 billion to improve road transport in this country over the next three years, with R1.5 billion earmarked for provincial road maintenance and weigh bridges, transport operators can reasonably expect greater enforcement of overloading control regulations around the country in the years ahead.
While national overloading statistics are hard to come by, the annual KZN Overload Report has 22-years worth of weighbridge data to draw from and as such, offers much insight into overloading trends within the province as well as acting as a yardstick for broader load mass compliance in other provinces. Here are salient extracts from the 2010 Report.
“During 2010, 204 589 vehicles were weighed at the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Transport’s (DoT) weighbridges of which 36 429 (18 %) were overloaded and 8 661 (4 %) chargeable. The percentage of vehicles overloaded decreased from 19.7 % in January to 16.9 % in December, while the percentage of vehicles chargeable varied between 3.6 % and 4.6 % for the year,’ states the report.
The number of vehicles weighed during 2010 is the highest number of vehicles weighed in a year and represents an increase of 15.8 % compared with the 176 739 vehicles weighed during 2009. The number of vehicles overloaded increased by 16.2 % from 31 352 to 36 429 and the number of vehicles chargeable increased by 5.1 % from 8 238 in 2009 to 8 661 in 2010.
“Vehicles from 12 494 different companies were weighed during 2010,’ the Report continues. “3 842 companies had only one vehicle weighed each while a further 5 852 had less than 10 vehicles weighed each. 14 companies had more than 1 000 vehicles weighed of which one had more than 5 000 vehicles weighed. For 1 040 vehicles the company was recorded as ‘˜Private’.
In terms of overloaded vehicles, 6 664 companies had no overloaded vehicles weighed. This is 53 % of all the companies. 474 ‘˜private’ vehicles were overloaded, while 2 424 vehicles for which the company name was not recorded, were overloaded.
In terms of vehicles overloaded by more than the prosecution tolerances, 9 161 companies (73 %) had no vehicles in this category, while a further 3 226 companies (26 %) had less than 10 overloaded vehicles in this category. A total of 106 ‘˜private’ vehicles were overloaded by more than the prosecution tolerances, while 181 vehicles for which the company name was not recorded, were overloaded by more than the prosecution tolerances.
The positive effects of enhanced overloading control and weighbridge activity can be seen when one looks back over the last two decades of data accumulated by the KZN DoT. “Prior to 1990, less than 10% of the overloaded vehicles were overloaded within the tolerance. This percentage increased to 78% in 2005, which is an indication of a reduction in the degree of overloading. In 2006, the 27percentage of overloaded vehicles overloaded within the tolerance reduced to 73% and remained at 73% until 2009. In 2010, the percentage of vehicles overloaded within the tolerance increased to 76%,’ says the report.
Interesting is that in the years from 1997 to 2007, there was a steady downward trend in the average overload per overloaded vehicle. From 2007 to 2009, the average overload per overloaded vehicle remained at approximately 780 kg but further decreased to about 740 kg in 2010.
The annual average overloads in contravention of Regulation 234/5 (permissible maximum axle and axle unit masses) have decreased from 2 420 kg in 1988 to 747 kg in 2007 with a slight increase of 3% to 767 kg in 2009 and a decrease of 5% to 725 kg in 2010.
The annual average overload in contravention of Regulation 236/237 (permissible maximum vehicle/combination mass) decreased from 2 920 kg in 1996 to 1 053 kg in 2006 and then to 827 kg in 2008, which represented a reduction of 21.5 % from 2006 to 2008. In 2010 it was 797 kg, which is a decrease of 7 % from 2009 to 2010.
“The stabilising of the average overload in contravention of Regulations 236 and 237 can be ascribed to the continuous impact of the introduction of the 2% tolerance (previously 5%) for maximum vehicle/combination mass on 15 June 2006,’ the report states.
Considering the average overload of single axles (non-steering with dual tyres), tandem axle units (dual tyres) and tridem axle units for the past years, the average overload of tandem axle units and tridem axle units have remained relatively constant since 2002, while the average overload for single axles with dual tyres increased from 711 kg in 2002 to 884 kg in 2008, but then showed a decrease of 8 % to 816 kg in 2009, and further decreased by 5% to 779 kg in 2010.
According to the report, the highest overload recorded in 2010 was 23 540 kg by the company Fynns Construction while transporting gravel. The vehicle was weighed at the Mkondeni weighbridge on the N3.
The second highest recorded overload of 22 280 kg was by the company Jade Rock Investments transporting containers and was also weighed at Mkondeni weighbridge on the N3.
The top six maximum overloads in 2010 were all higher than 20 tons while in 2009, the top ten highest overloads were more than 20 tons. This indicates that gross overloading has dropped.
“The highest overload in 2010 was an overload in terms of Regulation 237.2.a which means the limiting factor in terms of the permissible maximum combination was the sum of the permissible axle and axle unit masses, while the majority of the highest overloads were all overloaded in terms of permissible maximum combination mass (Regulation 237.1),’ the report states.
It is interesting to note that the top three commodities being transported in overloaded trucks are classified as ‘˜goods’; ‘˜mixed load’ and ‘˜container’ , none too specific and as the report says: “This highlights the need to improve the correct recording of the cargo during the weighing procedure and this should be communicated to the staff at the weighbridges.’
The report also reveals that while extensive overload control is exercised on the national road network in the province, overload control on the provincial road network is “currently being somewhat neglected, which is of concern to the Department of Transport.’
As a result, the KZN DoT has installed permanent weighing-in-motion (WIM) sites to monitor light and heavy vehicle trends. In addition, portable WIM scales are used on alternative routes to randomly measure overloading trends. Portable weighing-in-motion scales are being used to monitor vehicles that use alternate routes to avoid static weighbridges.
The results from the permanent WIM sites for 2009 and 2010 show that “the extent of overloading varied from 7.2% to 19.7% in 2009 and in 2010 varied from 4.2% to 19.8% on these provincial roads.’
Apart from ramped-up weighbridge activity, including new weigh-in-motion stations on provincial/secondary roads, further measures are being taken by the KZN DoT to monitor repeat offenders.
“In order to identify the worst offending companies, a Company Overload Number (CON) is calculated for each company based on the degree and extent of overloading by the company and the impact that company has on the road pavement,’ states the report.
“Companies should be encouraged to load their vehicles optimally, i.e. as close to the legal limit as possible, as this should reduce the number of vehicles required to transport the required payload. A company aiming to load optimally would occasionally exceed the legal limits and could therefore be classified as a frequent overloader, especially if it is an operator with a large number of vehicles on the road. The CON was therefore calculated in such a manner as not to penalise the companies aiming to optimise the loading of their vehicles but rather to identify those companies that overload their vehicles in excess of the tolerance limits on a regular basis,’ explains the report.
Pointing to the stabilisation in the degree of overloading over the last 12 years, the report highlights the distribution of vehicle overloads: “Since 1998, the number of overloaded vehicles in the 0 to 1 000 kg range has increased significantly, while the number of overloaded vehicles in the greater than 2 000 kg range has shown a marked decrease. This correlates with the increase in the number of overloaded vehicles within the prosecuting tolerance.
“Since 2007, the percentage of overloaded vehicles in the various overload bands has remained more or less constant, with the percentage of vehicles overloaded by less than 1 ton remaining at approximately 78% and the percentage overloaded by less than 2 ton, remaining at approximately 93%. In 2010, the percentage of vehicles overloaded by less than 1 ton increased to 81%.’
The report concludes that while the majority of the industry loads effectively and legally, “there are still companies clearly disregarding the Road Traffic Act with respect to the mass regulations and continuing to implement policies of deliberate overloading.” The report recommends that, as in previous years, the CEOs of these companies be approached by the Department with a view to taking serious actions if their overloading practices continue. “It is also clear that the small or non-commercial operators, grouped under ‘˜private’, are still a serious problem in terms of overloading and should receive special attention.’
It is clear that the KZN DoT has a firm grip on the overloading situation in the province and one hopes that other provinces follow its example, all the more possible now with state coffers ploughing in resources. It is also encouraging to see that while the KZN DoT enforces overloading control with vigour, it also understands the challenges facing truck transporters in optimising payload within the load mass limits.
The upshot is, the road transport community is doing its best to abide by load mass regulations and it really is only a handful of ‘˜road-wreckers’ who threaten the reputation of the industry. As any trucker will admit, there’s a fine line between being a sharp loader and a law-breaker and, as any smart operator will tell you “make use of on-board load weighing technology to keep both your bottom line and your public image healthy”.