The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) this week held Cambodia’s first national meeting on overloaded trucks on rural road networks, addressing damage being caused to routes across the Kingdom by outsized cargo.
Officials from the MRD and other departments yesterday convened with representatives of trucking associations and international experts to discuss measures to halt costs accruing to government, industry and individuals from the misuse of some 14,000 kilometres of rural roads.
About 72 per cent of Cambodia’s roads are classified as rural and, according to experts, habitual overloading of trucks and other modified vehicles is taking a major toll on infrastructure.
”Heavy traffic sooner or later causes fatigue cracks on the road, and when the surface is cracked, water trickles down into unbound layers and weakens the pavement,” said Anders Lundqvist, a consultant from Rural Roads Asset Management who have been collaborating with authorities on the issue.
As Lundqvist explained, overloading by just 10 per cent doubles the rate of wear and tear on roads. This generates exponentially higher maintenance costs for the state budget, increased damage to vehicles and more hazardous traffic conditions, thereby offsetting any profits to be made from overloading.
“The government has invested a lot in improving roads and transportation for the benefit of everyone,” said Chan Darong, director general of technical affairs at the MRD. “These practices [of overloading] are having a big impact on people trying to reach their local schools, hospitals and workplaces, so it is directly linked to promoting the economy.”
To tackle the issue, the MRD is rolling out a pilot project in Kampong Speu and Siem Reap provinces implementing such initiatives as weighing-stations, education campaigns, crackdowns on vehicle modification and even a free public reporting hotline to turn in violators.
Other experts from the field have noted that the design and construction quality of roads also has a bearing on their durability.
Daiuke Fukuzawa of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which supports the government’s overloading initiative, noted that Cambodia’s rural roads were built to variable standards.
“We only construct roads with asphalt which is more resilient,” he said. “But it seems that many rural routes, especially those carrying trucks, need to be held to higher construction and design standards, in particular with respect to issues like paving, which of course, costs more in time and money.”