Goods transporters end strike as PTI govt accepts demands

Halt to import, export activities costs economy Rs144 billion

Usman Hanif January 14, 2020
Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The government has decided to resume the implementation of axle load law following a loss of Rs144 billion on account of halt to imports and exports in the wake of a goods transporters’ strike. In a meeting with Sindh Governor Imran Ismail on Monday, container transport associations announced an end to the strike as it entered its eighth day.

Senior officials of the National Highway Authority, Port Qasim Authority, Karachi Port Trust, Ministry of Industries and Ministry of Communication were present in the meeting.

“Authorities accepted our 10-point agenda, hence, we ended the strike,” said Karachi Goods Carrier Association General Secretary Ghulam Muhammad Afridi while talking to The Express Tribune.

In those 10 points, the biggest demand of the transporters was the implementation of axle load law, he said. The law was enacted in 2002 and its implementation began in 2014, however, the government backtracked when the industry pressurised it last year, the general secretary added.

He pointed out that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was adamant to get the law implemented, however, the transporters had cautioned beforehand that the industry would not be able to comply with it as it would jack up their cost significantly.

“The government was certain to get the industry comply with the law, hence, we changed our vehicles to meet the government’s new limits,” he said.

Elaborating, he said a 48 feet long trailer, which carried 80,000 tonnes of coal, was altered to 35 feet because the longer trailer carried more weight, which could damage the highways.

He was of the view that the new 35 feet vehicles were good for roads but not for the industry as they carried less amount of merchandise (50,000 tonnes), resulting in a higher cost for exporters.

Therefore, the export and import-oriented industries pressurised the government to soften the axle load policy. However, the new arrangement was not in the transporters’ favour as they had already altered their vehicles.

“The other important issue was that the highway authorities had stopped drivers possessing old hand-made licences, which they received in small cities before digitalisation took over and this was not our fault,” said Afridi.

“We have also demanded that licence-issuing centres be set up at truck stands where both the stakeholders can meet.” The authorities also agreed to suspend a recent decision on imposing 10 times higher penalties on highways, he revealed.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2020.

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