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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Overloaded trucks pound donor-paved roads

Overloaded trucks pound donor-paved roads

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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,"

he said.

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,

he said.

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."

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