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Pakistan’s has made steady progress in investing and developing its motorways across the country. This was a major part of the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) initiative to develop our road infrastructure to develop Pakistan as the transit hub for movement of commercial cargoes under TIR/CMR regime from Pakistan to China and Central Asian Republics (CARS).

NHSO 2000 clearly defines “Axle Load Regime (ALR)” pending implementation for last two decades. This is despite the order by Islamabad High Court for implementation, review of the Sindh High Court, notifications from Ministry of Communications and National Highway Authority (NHA), several advocacy and awareness sessions with the Ministry of Communication, NHA, NHMP and other stakeholders, the axle load law is not being implemented in true spirit.

The government ignores under the pressure from interest groups and lobbies the required implementation, resulting in loss of precious lives, making this investment uneconomical and wherever used, cause costly damage to the infrastructure.

Due to non-implementation of the Axle Load Limits, all these investments on motorways have achieved little or nothing insofar as their purpose is concerned as either overloaded trucks are not allowed to run on those motorways by investors (built under BOT); or when overloaded trucks are allowed to ply between various routes, they significantly damage the road infrastructure and cause early repairs and maintenance costs (2nd year compared to first such repair job in the 7th year).

The Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway project is one such significant example in this regard for this too is a white elephant, On the other hand, overloaded freight vehicles are degrading our road infrastructure and incurring significant losses to the public exchequer in repair and maintenance costs.

The current state of the M9-Motorway (Karachi-Hyderabad) is a prime illustration of the bleak image painted by our highways and road network. M9 was developed with the promise of fast lanes and a safe access to other highways in Punjab. It attracted a large cost and resources from the national exchequer with the expectation of easing commuting and cargo delivery for speedy transit to/from the port. The road has a dreadful appearance due to continual overloading.

Motorways cannot recover their investments or will never be able to service their debts solely on the flow of passenger traffic; the entire dividend of these great routes and full economic gains are not realized unless they are used for commercial cargo movements.

Freight vehicles avoid these routes and travel “Overloaded” on national highways because axle load law is ignored there, thus also causing significant harm to our other highway infrastructure.

Pakistan was last included in the Logistics Performance Index (LPI) in 2018, when it was ranked 122 out of 167 countries.

Neighbouring India stood then at 44th and Bangladesh at 100th positions. India and Bangladesh have improved their positions to 38th and 88th positions, respectively, in the 2023 Index. Pakistan is now not even included in the study list since 2018, both Afghanistan and Libya stand at last 138th position in 2023 LPI.

Ninety eight percent of our cargo is moved by road. Over USD 24 billion worth of national assets being compromised. Over Rs. 80 billion damage to the highways is taking place due to overloading. These numbers are still quantifiable. However, consider that > 50,000 and more people die each year in road traffic accidents.

Over 200 people died in Bahawalpur in a single accident (Ahmed Pur Sharqia) when an overloaded oil tanker became unstable and crashed.

It may not be out of place to mention that under the UN TIR agreement, Pakistani goods are to travel in customs-secure vehicles or containers. Throughout the journey, duties and taxes at risk are covered by an internationally valid guarantee.

After joining the TIR, Pakistan has access by land from/to China, Central Asian states and beyond, opening a vertical corridor that will benefit regional and global trade and economies, say trade experts. All these benefits will be lost for Pakistan if we do not follow the international axle load regime and defy our own laws to allow overloading.

If we want to reap the true benefits of our motorways, immediate implementation of the Axle Load Regime (ALR) across Pakistan on motorways and highways to reap the true benefits of Motorways and make them profitable ventures and save costs of early repairs wasted on Highways destroyed due to overloading.

This will not only significantly improve our Logistics Performance Index (LPI) but will also help save precious lives that are often lost due to overloaded trucks.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Murtaza Ahmed Ali

The writer is Chairman, Fleet Operators Association of Pakistan


Comments are closed.

Adeel Nov 09, 2023 02:45pm
Very interesting article: The ultimate goals seems to increase freight rates and thats the bargaining power of customer to exploit current market. Thanks to aggregators which is helping customer more than supply side. On LPI score, Pakistan in 2018 held a score of '95 mean average' and not 122/167. How come we know such numbers? Ninety eight percent of our cargo is moved by road. Over USD 24 billion worth of national assets being compromised. Over Rs. 80 billion damage to the highways is taking place due to overloading. For heavy load Under TIR Carnet use bulk/heavy load; “marchandises pondéreuses ou volumineuses” bold is used on foil. 95% of truck owners in Pakistan have one or 1.5 trucks against in USA where it is 6 to one owner. Comparing economies it seems okay. Please also remember GDP muliplier effect on trade logistics which sets the growth momentum and trajectory of fleet. God Speed
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cool Nov 11, 2023 07:17pm
Bhutto is still haunting Sindh
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