Relief for sugar cane millers as State lifts ban on night transport

An overturned cane truck in Navakholo, Kakamega County. Residents have urged the State to develop roads in the region which are currently in a poor state. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

It is a sigh of relief to sugarcane factories and truck drivers in the western Kenya sugar belt after the Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) and security chiefs allowed cane trucks to transport sugarcane at night.

This follows a tiff between the cane millers in the region, county governments, truck owners, and road authorities over suitable roads for the trucks to use while transporting cane to the sugar factories for crushing.

The row has seen Kakamega County impound West Kenya Sugar Companykenh trucks for allegedly violating traffic laws and subsequently barring the trucks from using roads in the Central Business District (CBD).

But the management of the sugar factories says there is no law prohibiting them from using a certain road.

Speaking during a meeting in Kakamega town that brought together representatives from all cane millers, county commissioners from the four areas, trucks owners and KeNHA officials, it was agreed that lifting the ban would improve the economy of the region.

Kakamega County Commissioner John Ondego said there is no law barring the trucks from operating at night. However, the law prohibits overloading, especially at night.

“There is no law barring the trucks, other vehicles, and even residents from working or operating at night, but the same law prohibits overloading, and that is where we had a problem with trucks, they were overloading cane hence destroying our roads,” said Ondego.

“We encourage our people to work while observing the law. We have a 24-hour economy, and the counties with the national government will work to ensure there are roads in towns that the trucks will be using while transporting their goods.”

Busia County Commissioner Kipchumba Rutto said they are championing the 24-hour economy to create job opportunities for the locals but maintained that truck owners must obey and stick to the existing laws.

“We have to ensure our people are economically empowered by having the opportunity to work, but as we do so, we are going to ensure cane millers follow the law and do not overload, obstruct other road users or cause accidents, same to other people ferrying goods, especially at night,” said Rutto.

However, officials from cane millers led by Operation Manager at West Kenya Sugar Company Eliud Madioli blamed KeNHA for failing to construct roads that can withstand the weight of cane trucks.

The cane millers said the roads their trucks use are substandard. “We are only allowed to transport cane from 6am to 6PM, but KeNHA has told us that if we can follow and abide by certain laws, then we are ready and free to transport our raw materials at any given time, be it at night or day,” said Matioli.

The war between cane millers, truck owners, KeNHA, and devolved units recently saw Kakamega County impound 12 trucks belonging to West Kenya Sugar Company.

The war reached the courts after West Kenya Sugar Company filed a case protesting the county move. Chief Magistrate Josphat Ndururi temporarily barred the county government askaris from impounding any West Kenya Sugar Company properties pending the determination of the case.