MANILA, Philippines - A Public Advisory from the DPWH which came out recently says "Effective Feb. 1, 2011 the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) will start apprehending trucks and trailers that will exceed the 13,500 kilograms per axle limit." The advisory continues; "However, the restrictions on both the allowable vehicle axle load of 13,500 kilograms and gross vehicle weight (GVW), which ranges from 16,880 kilograms to 41,000 kilograms, depending on the number and configuration of axles, will strictly be enforced May 1, 2011."
RA No. 8794 has been a law since 2000, and it gave the secretaries of the DPWH and DoTC to come up with the implementing rules and regulations. I presume the intent of the law is to save our road network from the ravages of overloading which is why there is a limit of 13,500 kilograms per axle limit. However attached to the Public Advisory is a matrix of the truck and semi-trailer axel configurations with the maximum gross vehicle weights (GVW) already specified! It is normal practice that the maximum GVW is specified by the manufacturer and not as indicated on their matrix.
Scrutinizing the matrix and the illustrations therein makes the situation more confusing since it has no bearing on the 13,500 kilograms per axle limit. As an example, trucks with tandem rear axle 4 axles (14 wheels) has a maximum GVW of 29,700 kgs. On the other hand, truck semi-trailer with 3 axles (10 wheels) has a maximum GVW of 30,380 kgs. Adding to the confusion is a truck semi-trailer with 4 axles (14 wheels) has the same maximum GVW of 30,380 kgs.! Surprisingly the notice also shows another truck trailer with 5 axles (18 wheels) has a maximum GVW of 30,378 kgs, actually 2 kgs lower than the 3 and 4 axle truck semi-trailer configuration.
It would seem that the limiting factor is not the 13,500 kilograms per axle limit but the imposed maximum GVW as based in the illustrations in the Public Advisory matrix. As to where these GVW limits came from is a mystery to me. However, considering that the international standards for 20 foot and 40 foot containers that are built and designed for a maximum gross weight of 24,000 kgs and 30,480 kgs respectively for cost efficiency in shipping, storage and handling , we can see that there is a problem, a very big one. Particularly in our case where more than 80% of the trucks and trailers operating in the Philippines have only 3 or 4 axles with the imposed maximum GVW of 30,380 kgs.
Considering that a truck or tractor head has a dead weight of between 8,000 to 10,000 kgs, a trailer weighs 6,000 to 8,000 kgs and the actual container has a weight of between 2,500 to 4,000 kgs, that adds up to 16,500 to 22,000 kgs leaving a payload of only 8,380 to 13,880 kgs! A far cry from the payload capacity of 21,600 kgs for 20 foot containers and 26,580 kgs for 40 foot containers. Not only will this result in doubling the cost of freight but will also result in twice the handling and storage facilities, worsening traffic conditions since it will now take twice as many trips to carry the same amount of goods, and will certainly lead to the further demise of already hard pressed Philippine businesses that are trying to compete in a global environment against all the odds of the disadvantages we already have to face locally. Worse is we may not even have enough trucks, trailers and containers to move all that freight around since they will now need additional trips to move the same amount of cargo.
A number of business organizations such as the Philippine Iron & Steel Institute, the Pulp & Paper Manufacturers Association, Inc., AGC Flatglass Philippines, Inc and even the truckers themselves were up in arms on this issue. However, the good news is that a couple of weeks ago there was a meeting between Secretary Singson of the DPWH and the EDC-National Committee on Transport & Logistics, Confederation of Filipino Truckers Associations, and other groups which resulted in the agreement to apply only the axle load limits and let the GVW issue conform to this. After all, everyone agreed that it was only the excessive axle loading that destroyed even good roads.
We in the business sector would like to think that this issue has been fairly resolved but as of this morning when I wrote this column, a quick check at the DPWH website still has the same Public Advisory without any changes on the GVW matrix. Calling on the DPWH webmaster if indeed an agreement on the implementation of the anti-overloading law is now based in the 13,500 kgs per axle limit then please update the website. This way we also avoid any misunderstanding with the law enforcement units who will certainly use this as their basis of apprehension.
While it is good that our government listens to reason, it would be better if they consult with those affected first before they move to implement something. This is the reason why all Filipinos must remain vigilant in ensuring that our government is keep on the correct path as our President has promised.
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