Seriously overloaded logging and construction vehicles are being blamed for the destruction
of highways recently rebuilt with foreign donor funding.
Where potholes come from: Overloaded trucks like this one at a weigh station on Route 4 are being blamed for destroying the surface of donor-reconstructed Routes 4, 6, and 7.
Representatives of the Overloaded Vehicle Control Committee (OVCC) blame overloaded
logging and construction vehicles - many of them owned or controlled by senior political
and military officials - for a drastic decline in the road surface quality of Routes
4, 6 and 7.
Route 4 was reconstructed with American funding in 1996, while the Japanese-funded
reconstruction of Routes 6 and 7 was completed in 2000.
"The whole of these routes will soon be destroyed if we don't properly control
the overloaded vehicles," said OVCC spokesman Meas Samith.
Samith said logging trucks and construction vehicles hauling sand, stone, and cement
along the routes were responsible for increasing damage to the paved highways.
During a one-hour visit by the Post to an OVCC weigh station 40 kilometers southwest
of Phnom Penh on Route 4, every one of the 20 trucks pulled over for a weight spot
check were found to be five to 12 tons overweight. Two of the vehicles were hauling
logs from the Great Atlantic Timber (GAT) logging concession in Kampong Thom.
An OVCC representative told the Post that in the first week of testing in early January,
every vehicle stopped was found to be overweight.
Overloaded trucks are fined 100,000 riels for each ton they are overweight.
Chay Kheng, head of the OVCC Sub-Committee and also Deputy Director of Kampong Speu
Public Works and Transport Department, told the Post that the destruction of Route
4 by overloaded trucks posed a serious threat to Cambodia's economy.
"Route 4 is the throat of Cambodia's economy. We have to maintain it,"
OVCC's efforts to get overloaded trucks off the road are being obstructed by government
and military officials and powerful businessmen who are running the trucking operations,
Meas Samith acknowledged the influence of "powerful interests" in aborting
the efforts of the OVCC.
"This is a challenging task," he said. "Some truck-owners are powerful
people who are difficult to deal with."
Chhay Keng expresses his concern on the long-term impact the OVCC's "weigh and
fine" will have in successfully reducing the number of overloaded trucks on
Routes 4, 6 and 7.
"...businessmen know that we are monitoring [these routes] and appear to comply
with the [weight] regulations, but when we withdraw [the road scales], they will
start [overloading trucks] again.
Samith expresses more optimism about the potential success of the OVCC's efforts,
but warns that failure to address the damage inflicted by overloaded vehicles may
harm future donor funding for road reconstruction projects.
"Who will repay the [donor] loans to reconstruct our highways? It will be our
children," he said. "If we don't enforce the law and stop the destruction
of our roads, donor countries aren't going to help us rebuild our roads."