The government is planning to ban overloaded vehicles from plying on highways across India, citing safety hazards and their damaging affect on road quality.
According to a proposal mooted by the road transport & highways ministry, any goods vehicle loaded in excess of the permissible axle load of 10.2 tonnes will have to unload the excess quantity before it is allowed to ply further or cross toll plazas. "The proposal will be taken up in the cabinet soon," said a government official.
Overloaded vehicles are a major safety hazard for commuters travelling on highways. Of the 4.98 lakh road accidents that killed 1.42 lakh people in 2011, overloaded vehicles accounted for 20% (1,00,238) of the accidents and 23% (33,604) of the deaths.Though the existing National Highways Fee Rules have a provision to impose fines as well as lighten an overloaded vehicle, officials admit that they are usually let off after being made to pay a miniscule sum.
The ministry now proposes to do away with the provision to pay fines, and make it mandatory for all such vehicles to unload goods before being allowed to ply further. The existing rule was in variation with the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, which recommends penal provisions for overloading trucks.
Besides being a safety hazard, overloaded vehicles also have a detrimental effect on the quality of highways. "An overloaded vehicle reduces the longevity of highways. It increases the maintenance cost of roads within a short time span," said Arvind Kumar, former advisor in the road ministry.
Road sector experts, however, remain skeptical. "The real challenge would be to execute the policy in real time. The ministry will have to ensure that there are proper weighing machines at toll plazas, and adequate staff to enforce the rule," said Dr S Gangopadhyay, director, Central Road Research Institute.