The government is to tighten the screws on truck operators who persistently overload vehicles, according to Transport Minister Jeff Radebe.
Radebe said at the weekend that according to a study conducted by the CSIR, the road damage caused by overloaded heavy vehicles has been estimated to cost the economy more than R600-million a year.
This has resulted in increased hazards on the country's roads and huge implications in terms of turn-around time and cargo delivery, thereby increasing the cost of doing business in the country.
"Our current reality as the government is that we are confronted with various forms of overloading such as repeat overloading by the same operators and severe overloading up to and beyond 100%," said Radebe.
There are 104 weighbridges throughout the country, and according to Radebe, heavy vehicle operators have also become experts in the practice of overloading.
"Some are budgeting for admission-of-guilt fines in the event of being caught.
"They are also studying escape routes and in some instances they use back-up vehicles to offload when caught, and reload upon release," Radebe said.
The government is implementing the national overload control strategy to protect the country's road infrastructure, to improve road safety and to ensure seamless movement of cargo.
An estimated R20-million has been set aside by the government to implement the strategy which is in line with the road safety strategy, the infrastructure strategic framework for roads and the freight logistics strategy.
"Through the National Road Traffic Act, we are investigating ways of extending the liability for overloading beyond operators and ensure that cargo consignors and consignees take ownership and face the full might of the law," Radebe said.
Both the Departments of Transport and Justice are also upgrading guidelines for public prosecution in order to elevate the profile of overloading offences and to ensure stiff penalties for offenders.
"We are in the process of establishing a special overload control unit which will target the worst overloaders in South Africa both in terms of severe overloading and repeat overloading," Radebe said.
By Patrick Hlahla The Star