BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA
MININFRA is committed to the EDPRS targets to improve productivity and competitiveness, ease the cost and process of doing business in Rwanda through the development of infrastructure, while contributing to raising the standard of living of the population.
The development and maintenance of physical infrastructure are prerequisites for rapid economic growth and poverty reduction, as they influence production costs, employment creation, access to markets, and investment opportunities.
Roads, as Rwanda’s primary form of transport for both goods and passengers, are integral to this.
As the government steps up road maintenance, transport costs are expected to drastically reduce, leading to more affordable products across the supply chain.
Axle load limitations
A significant factor in preserving the condition of Rwanda’s roads relates to restricting the loads transported by trucks, to ensure roads last their full design life under normal maintenance.
As such, obligatory axle load limitations have been created, which are between 24 to 34 metric tons per truck, depending on the number of axles.
In practice, though, axle load limitations are easily by-passed by commercial transporters, and over time enforcement has become less stringent due to irregular weighbridge calibration.
Among the critical issues is the lack of harmonisation of axle load limit regulations and vehicle specifications among Eastern and Southern African countries, which makes overload control management difficult.
Additionally, poor enforcement of rules and regulations is prevalent across the region, due to inadequate institutional capacity and serious integrity issues among public officials manning weighbridges, leading to a lack of faith in systems used in different countries.
Where enforcement has been attempted, efficiency issues arise as vehicles are sometimes weighed more frequently than necessary, including at weigh bridges a few kilometers apart on different sides of border crossings.
In an effort to combat inefficiencies and corruption, current EAC governments are attempting to adopt a stricter approach to the control and enforcement of axle load limitations.
Overloading of commercial vehicles, coupled with lack of adequate maintenance, have resulted in the accelerated deterioration of the region’s roads causing the loss of precious infrastructure worth millions of dollars, and adverse impacts on the economies of all African countries.
Significant efforts are being made to address these deficiencies and preserve the region’s roads, while enhancing trade and safety: EAC protocol states that trucks loaded with a custom sealed containers will be weighed only once at the departure and entry point; more mobile and highway weighbridges are planned; and weighbridges will also undergo regular calibration to ensure accuracy and consistency.
In Rwanda, weighbridges have been installed at the border of Gatuna.
Plans are underway to equip other borders, and the Government is also looking to the option of mobile weighbridges for surprise checking within the country.
Under EAC, the recommendations include a cross-border overload system linked to customs at all border posts, harmonised weighbridge clearance certificates, regional training, design/implementation of anti-corruption programmes and dissemination of information to the public to create awareness of the importance of overload control.
Well-informed technical resolutions are in place to enable the three regional partners (COMESA, SADC, EAC) to secure necessary mandates from policy organs, and to spearhead more effective implementation of harmonised vehicle overload control systems in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Currently, trucks are weighed at every weighbridge in Kenya, in line with the implementation of COMESA and EAC axle load limits, gross weight and vehicle dimensions.
Not all countries have implemented the regulations Kenya has limited the gross weight at 48 tonnes while the maximum allowed in COMESA is 53 tonnes.
Road policy reform
It is planned that road authorities and funds will be operational in all EAC member states before the end of 2009. Today, Rwanda is one of four EAC countries which have implemented
Dilapidated roads not only contribute to the high cost of doing business due to the delays encountered delivering goods and products, they also compromise the safety of road users.
The Government of Rwanda is committed to maintaining the condition of the country’s roads through the strict enforcement of axle load limitations.
Furthermore, Rwanda is in the process of developing a comprehensive road signage strategy, which includes the harmonisation of road signs and signals with the EAC. It is anticipated that this will improve road safety and navigability, assisting the trucking and tourism industries.
Supporting and maintaining road infrastructure is expected to make it easier and quicker for businesses to trade regionally, increasing the competitiveness of EAC economies as a whole through job creation and increased wealth.
National and District roads are being upgraded and rehabilitated at great cost to the country.
Institutional and legal frameworks are being put in place to enhance the management of road infrastructure.
The Transport Development Agency is in the process of being established and a Road Act to regulate the Road network in the country will soon be passed.
To preserve this investment, the Ministry of infrastructure has come up with a Road Maintenance Strategy aimed at the following:
• Provide a policy framework to guide the TDA and Districts in maintenance programming, planning and execution
• Ensure that the investment that is made in the development of road infrastructure is safeguarded and allowed to delver maximum benefits
• Allow all stakeholders to understand the investment decisions taken by the Ministry.