Ban­ning road haulage trucks not the so­lu­tion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

HAULAGE trucks might be on the high­way to obliv­ion if two sep­a­rate lob­bies im­pact­ing on their op­er­a­tions suc­ceed. Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter, Dr Jo­ram Gumbo, speak­ing at the com­mis­sion­ing of 31 Na­tional Rail­ways of Zim­babwe wag­ons in Bu­l­awayo on Fri­day said the Gov­ern­ment might come up with an in­stru­ment man­dat­ing bulk cargo to be moved by train only. The pro­posal, he said, was mo­ti­vated by the need to help the NRZ re­cover as more busi­ness would be chan­nelled to rail. It was also mo­ti­vated by the need to min­imise the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the na­tional road net­work that is mov­ing too much heavy loads. The pro­posal is also in­tended to re­duce con­ges­tion and road ac­ci­dents.

His min­istry, he said, is work­ing on a trans­porta­tion mas­ter plan to as­sist in the creation of a trans­porta­tion sys­tem that bal­ances the busi­ness for air, rail, road and water­ways.

“While this can be achieved in the long run, we are im­me­di­ately faced with the chal­lenge of at­tract­ing sound part­ners or fi­nanciers to the NRZ project, hence the sub­ject of ring-fenc­ing of bulk cargo to NRZ. The ring-fenc­ing of cargo should un­der or­di­nary cir­cum­stances be en­forced through moral sua­sion. How­ever, at times, it may be nec­es­sary to leg­is­late,” he said.

This was not the first time that Dr Gumbo has floated this idea. In Jan­uary he spoke about it. He re­it­er­ated that po­si­tion in July at the Mine En­tra in­fra­struc­ture con­fer­ence, say­ing the Gov­ern­ment was plan­ning to come up with a statu­tory in­stru­ment out­law­ing trans­porta­tion of bulk cargo by road but rail.

Yes­ter­day at a stake­hold­ers meet­ing in Vic­to­ria Falls, a se­nior of­fi­cial at the Na­tional Oil In­fra­struc­ture Com­pany of Zim­babwe (NOIC) high­lighted a ba­si­cally sim­i­lar pro­posal. The dif­fer­ence is that if theirs is adopted, it would see truck­ers be­ing banned from trans­port­ing fuel from Mozam­bique. NOIC chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mr Wil­fred Matukeni is quoted else­where in this is­sue say­ing trans­port­ing fuel by road poses ques­tions on the in­tegrity of the com­mod­ity. He high­lighted cases where some truck­ing firms have not only mixed the com­mod­ity with other oils but also used the sys­tem to smug­gle it. In­stead of road, he said, fuel must be moved from Beira in Mozam­bique to Mutare through the Feruka Oil Pipe­line.

Dis­cus­sions be­tween the own­ers of the line, PetroZim Line Ltd, and Cam­pan­hia do Pipe­line Mo­cam­bique-Zim­babwe Lim­i­tada to ex­pand the pipe­line are in progress, he said.

“We want to limit the overuse of roads and also make sure that con­sumers get qual­ity prod­ucts, which are not il­le­gally blended. This will also con­trol prices of fuel,” he said.

The net ef­fect of these pro­pos­als would be to ef­fec­tively cur­tail the haulage truck­ing busi­ness in the coun­try. They will not be able to bring fuel into the coun­try and on top of that, what­ever bulk cargo there is in the coun­try would have to move on the train.

The cost of mov­ing ba­si­cally all our bulk cargo by road is huge road dam­age, pol­lu­tion, con­ges­tion and higher land­ing costs.

How­ever, is ban­ning haulage trucks a cor­rect de­ci­sion to take? We don’t think so. The truck­ing busi­ness is huge in our coun­try and it grew huger in re­cent years, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the fail­ure of the NRZ to move freight ef­fec­tively. It de­rives a lot of busi­ness from the hefty cargo that should be or­di­nar­ily moved by trains oil, coal, maize, chrome ore and so on. And bulk cargo should log­i­cally be more ex­pen­sive to trans­port, which means more money to the haulage busi­ness than they earn when mov­ing lighter stuff. It cre­ates em­ploy­ment and con­trib­utes im­mensely to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

There­fore, hit­ting them at home and abroad if the Min­istry of Trans­port and NOIC’s pro­pos­als suc­ceed would be do­ing a lot to throt­tle a vi­brant in­dus­try.

NOIC and its part­ners only need to ex­pand the Beira-Feruka oil pipe­line and present it to the mar­ket for their clients to de­cide whether to use it or not. Chances are how­ever high that oil busi­nesses would opt for the line given the ad­van­tages it of­fers, ob­vi­at­ing the need for an of­fi­cial ban on haulage trucks.

At the same time we en­cour­age the min­istry to shun a blan­ket ban. We en­cour­age them to care­fully pick cer­tain cargo to move to the train and leave some to open com­pe­ti­tion. On the NRZ we are not to­tally op­posed to the ring-fenc­ing that Dr Gumbo high­lights as the paras­tatal re­quires some form of “un­fair ad­van­tage” for it to get back on its feet.

We fore­see le­gal im­ped­i­ments if the Gov­ern­ment to­tally bans the im­por­ta­tion of fuel by road and the move­ment of all bulk freight on lo­cal routes by trucks. Such squab­bling would be bad for the smooth run­ning of the econ­omy and the Gov­ern­ment’s quest to open the mar­ket up for busi­ness.

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