Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Container hauliers want axle-load limits raised to 30pc

This will provide a temporary solution for hauliers who are now finding it difficult to increase their haulage charges due to the economic downturn, says an industry group

LOCAL container hauliers want the government to raise the axle-load limits on roads to 30 per cent across the board from the current 5 per cent, to help meet high maintenance costs and turnaround of their vehicles amid the global economic downturn.

Association of Malaysian Hauliers (AMH) president Datuk Ahmad Shalimin Shaffie said a dialogue was held on February 3 between the association and the Road Transport Department (JPJ) director-general Datuk Solah Mat Hassan on, among other things, the implications of the economic crisis on the haulage industry.

"The issue of hauliers overloading their trucks, and the recent announcement by Works Minister Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamad of a new axle rating for all commercial vehicles, was raised," Ahmad Shalimin, who is also chairman of the Malaysian Logistics Council's focus group on land and rail transport, told Business Times.

"Since the official specification (of the new axle standard) and its approval process take a longer time, we are seeking guidance from JPJ and the Transport Ministry for the axle-load limits to be increased to 30 per cent for all commercial vehicles (for now).

"We believe this will provide a temporary solution for hauliers who are now finding it difficult to increase their haulage charges due to the economic downturn," he added.

Ahmad Shalimin said local hauliers have seen a 25-30 per cent drop in revenue and container volume since December last year compared with a year earlier, in tandem with the fall seen by local ports .

It was reported that all container haulage prime mover and trailer combinations in Malaysia are currently licensed at the maximum BDM (berat dengan muatan) of 38 tonnes.

Since last year, AMH has been proposing for an increase in the amount of cargo a container haulage prime mover would be able to transport without incurring a fine.

However, it was reported that the authorities' major concerns are that an increase would cause road safety problems, damage to the roads and increase road maintenance costs.

On whether the current crisis is worse than the 1997 Asian financial crisis for the haulage industry , Ahmad Shalimin said much would depend on the second economic stimulus package to be announced by the government next month.

"We hope that the stimulus package will help to stimulate the economy. If it is effective, we expect to see recovery after the second quarter of this year.

"Still, the government must not stop spending money and the banks must not stop lending money," he said.

Ahmad Shalimin believes that Malaysian businessmen are better equipped to handle the current crisis, having gone through the 1997 one.

"I believe that in a crisis lies an opportunity. We must be more creative in order to get over this crisis. We must work hand-in-hand with other industry players and the regulators in order to ensure that the industry survives," he said, adding that one way to do that is to consolidate.

On the implementation of the three-day free storage period for containers in Port Klang , Ahmad Shalimin urges all parties to get ready so that it would not be postponed again.

"Because we (the maritime community at Port Klang) are moving into international standards, we should be efficient enough to clear our goods to and from the ports within three days.

"I really hope that we can improve ourselves and will be able to become a maritime nation according to international standards. We cannot have this postponed again and again. It does not look good on us as a nation," he said.

The reduction of the free storage period from five days to three was scheduled to take effect on January 1 this year. However, this has been delayed to July 1 in view of the current economic climate and the appeal by some quarters in the maritime community.

AMH represents 64 local companies in Peninsular Malaysia, controlling some 90 per cent of the haulage market.

Source: NST Online

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