According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitive Report Index of 2020, Namibia has retained its status as having the best roads on the African continent for five consecutive years. This means a lot to the country and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) states. In essence, the award is in line with the trajectory targeted developmental strategic goals of the country.
The importance of road infrastructure development in Namibia is embedded in the long-term Vision 2030 and the National Development Plan (NDP5) objectives which call for sustained economic growth, infrastructure development, employment creation and improved income equality. However, such goals can only be achieved through sustained investment in road infrastructure which is one of the major enablers of economic growth.
Literature has shown that a well-constructed paved road is designed to last for at least twenty years before rehabilitation becomes necessary due to road deterioration. The major causes of road damage are among others, external environmental factors such as weather and road use consumption. Abusive use of the road infrastructure, especially through overloading of heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses can dramatically reduce the lifespan of the road through road damage, which attracts maintenance costs at the expense of road users and by extension society. Transport has a socio-economic component and is interwoven into people’s everyday lives, thus, a need to manage the practice of vehicle loading in the country. Moreover, the overloading of trucks has dire consequences for road infrastructure and pavements as it increases transport costs and road safety-related problems.
Overload Control Preservation Strategy
In the year 2000, the Namibian Cabinet endorsed a weighbridge programme to construct 13 weighbridges across the country. The main objective of establishing and constructing weighbridges was and is to maintain the road network through the elimination of factors contributing to the degradation of road infrastructure.
Thus far, Namibia has a total of ten weighbridges countrywide, spaced along the national road network. The implementation of the overload control strategy has facilitated the control of pavement consumption and has resulted in improved road safety. However, laws and regulations have been in existence since the country’s independence but these have not kept pace with the transport sector development and they have not been adequately enforced. The shift has resulted in significant growth in the road transport sector as manifested by an increase in the vehicle population, vehicle sizes and payload capacity with smaller trucks being substituted with today’s vehicle combinations.
The overload control strategy of the Roads Authority is to ensure that all vehicles above 3 500kg are weighed to enforce the permissible carrying capacity and thus preserve road infrastructure, minimise road maintenance costs, and also enhance road safety with the objective of protecting the road. This makes it necessary to ensure that the forces exerted by heavy vehicles on road infrastructure are managed within the carrying design capacity of pavement layers and bridges. The transportation of heavy loads is not necessarily a concern, but when the load exceeds the maximum permissible limit of a truck, several adverse consequences may occur such as truck instability, braking default, loss of mobility and manoeuvrability and higher risks of tyre blowouts.
For this reason, all road users are called upon to jealously guard these valuable assets by not partaking in overloading activities to ensure pavement longevity. Let’s therefore, instil the culture of zero tolerance on overloading and report infringements to the authorities.