The Honourable Supreme Court of India issued a ruling in November 2005 banning the movement of overloaded trucks on all roads. Prior to this judgment, there were no set rules related to the practice of overloading of freight vehicles in India. The regulations differed from one state to another. Certain states in India, issued gold passes to transporters who could then load their trucks beyond capacity in a legal manner. Overloading of vehicles was more or less a normal practice that almost all transport companies indulged in and got away with after paying a surcharge on the excess weight. Post the landmark judgment, the road freight industry is slowing waking up to the changed dynamics as are the law enforcement agencies. Though a lot still needs to be done, the noose around overloaded trucks is slowly tightening inch by inch.
The importance of regulations to stop the prevalent practice of overloading freight vehicles is realized better when looking at the broader picture. India is in the midst of an infrastructure revolution and is committed to building national highways and roads in order to sustain its economic growth and fuel further development. Building roads and highways is not the easiest of tasks, with Crores of rupees and a considerable amount of time spent annually to build important kilometres of a highway. While the entire government machinery is required to build crucial kilometres, it takes one single overloaded truck to cause damage to it. According to a study by CRISIL Research, a truck carrying about 10% excess weight can reduce the lifespan of a highway by 35%.
While the Supreme Court ordered a blanket ban on all overloaded vehicles, the central and state bodies are yet to implement it to a 100%. Different state regulations for different states compound the problem of implementing stricter rules against overloaded vehicles. The Rajasthan government was recently criticized for allowing overloaded vehicles to pass after they paid the penalty on the extra tonnage. At the same time, the state of Bihar has been applauded for implementing strict laws against overloading by impounding the vehicle, revoking permits and arresting the driver of a truck under the criminal offence pertaining to causing damage to public property.
The states of Karnataka and Maharashtra issued notifications to mining trucks that have to be followed when transporting ore from the mines in these states failing, which the mines stand to lose their licenses. The transport department of Goa has recently issued warnings to several transporting companies to follow the norms or face strict action including the impounding of the vehicles. According to the new regulations, six wheelers cannot carry more than 10.5 tonnes of cargo while 16 wheelers have to stop loading at 15 tonnes.
Overloaded trucks are no longer considered an acceptable affair. In the current situation, the government, administrative and law enforcement agencies are determined to curb their movements. The road ahead is a long one, but the journey has begun to push overloaded cargos off India's highways.