IRREGULARITIES and corruption continue to plague the transport sector. Vehicle overloading is a striking example of such irregularities. Vehicles carrying goods, as New Age reported on Sunday, continue to carry two to two-and-a-half times higher than the load limit. This continued violation affects the economic life of roads and highways and costs the government a lot in maintenance. In this context, instead of enforcing the existing regulations, it has increased the load limit in January. The axle load limit and control mechanism is fizzling out as the government has failed to penalise overloaded trucks, covered vans and trailers at weigh bridges on highways fearing reprisal in the form of strike by vehicle owners. Besides, only four permanent stations, out of 11, axle load stations or weigh bridges are now active. It is evident from the prevailing situation that the Road Transport and Highway Department is negligent in and indifferent to controlling the vehicle overloading on highways.
The continuous movement of overloaded vehicles on highways decreases the lifetime of roads, on the one hand, and increases the cost of road maintenance, on the other hand. The cost of road construction is remarkably high in Bangladesh in comparison with the cost in Europe. Invariably, the spending of public money on road and highway maintenance has increased significantly. In 2000–01, the authorities spent Tk 305 crore on national and regional highway and district road maintenance, which increased to Tk 1,804 crore in 2017–18. Referring to this vicious cycle, anti-corruption watch dog Transparency International, Bangladesh has suggested that vested quarters are behind recurrent maintenance and repairs of costly roads to reap financial benefits; hence, there is more interest in recurring maintenance than proper maintenance. Experts have for long blamed the government’s indulgence of vested interests and pressure from transport leaders for rampant overloading of vehicles. The fact that the government has increased the load limit defying opposition of the Road Transport and Highways Department and sidestepping international standards in this regards proves this point. Experts have also pointed out that the imposed fine has also proved ineffective in controlling vehicles overloading. It is, therefore, important for the government to implement the axle load limit and control mechanism to check overloading and ensure a better use of the road network.
The government is, under the circumstances, well advised to look into the situation and streamline the road transport sector, specifically its dealing with the issue of compliance by owners of trucks, covered vans and trailers with the policy on the axle load limit and control. In addition, it is important for the government not to give in to the pressure of transport owners and workers as such wavering attitude of the government makes its position vulnerable and difficult for it to implement the rules.
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