KeNHA accuses transporter of breaching cargo height rule

KeNHA engineer inspects an overloaded truck at Isinya weighbridge on January 18, 2024 [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Local transport and logistics firm PN Mashru is embroiled in a tussle with the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) over the movement of cargo above normal height.

The firm’s trucks have been stuck at the Coast for more than a week loaded with cargo destined for Uganda, which it says has caused losses for both the company and its client.

The company had sought a special permit to move cargo with the height of 5.8 metres through the Mombasa-Malaba route passing through Mariakani, Nairobi and Eldoret.

KeNHA however, said it can only do so using other routes as at 5.8 metres, the height is higher than what is allowed on the route due to infrastructure such as bridges that are on average 5.5 metres high and could cause major damage.

Ordinarily, transporters are allowed to move cargo with a height of 4.3 metres on the route.

PN Mashru had sought exemption for a height of 5.3 metres, which was approved but according to KeNHA, when the trucks reached the Dongo Kundu Weighbridge, the height measurement was 5.8 metres.

“The legal height limitations are 4.3 metres. The above trucks have heights of 5.8meters which cannot go under most of the bridges over road crossings,” said Michael Ngala, KeNHA deputy director, axle load control.

“The transporter has therefore been asked to provide a new route survey plan which can allow free movement of the transit cargo through our country's highways in a manner which guarantees public safety and secure road related infrastructure,” added Ngala.

After the trucks were found to be in breach of the exemption given by KeNHA, PN Mashru’s officials were arrested and arraigned before Mombasa Law Courts where they pleaded guilty of going against the Traffic Act. The four officials were each fined Sh20,000 or serve a sentence of between three and six months. 

The court ordered KeNHA to release the trucks that had been impounded.

But KeNHA argued that the trucks are stuck at the Kenyan Coast because they have failed to meet the approved height or given an alternative route. 

KeNHA said due to the cargo’s height, the trucks would cause damage to key infrastructure that crisscross the highway such as bridges. The highways authority advised PN Mashru to look for an alternative route adding that cargo with higher heights had been transported to Uganda but through other routes.

The authority cited a boat that was recently transported to Jinja, Uganda that had a height of 6.5 metres. 

“This was managed by a careful route survey leading to the selection of the best route to be followed. We therefore wish to appeal to transporters to provide correct information to avoid unnecessary delays which can be avoided,” said KeNHA. 

Ezekiel Mengich, an official at PN Mashru in an interview with a local TV station on Tuesday regretted the delay, saying this was among the factors driving importers in neighbouring countries to use Tanzania as an import route.

“This cargo is destined for Uganda and it has been here since Tuesday last week. It is a big loss because there are other trucks that left eight days ago and have already made a round trip having delivered cargo to their clients while our trucks are still waiting for clearance,” he said.

“It is because of these instances that we are seeing trade between Kenya and Uganda reducing. It was the case with Rwanda, where importers are increasingly using Tanzania as an import route. We have seen the challenges faced by fuel importers in Uganda,” Mengich added.

“If these challenges persist, people will think Tanzania is a better import route to the landlocked countries. Our economy relies on cargo going through Kenya. You can imagine more than 10,000 transporters depending on this business.”