Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Truckers weigh in on sand shortage

Published:Monday | August 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Policemen check the reading of a vehicle that was on the scale during the launch of the Island Traffic Authority's weight enforcement programme in 2009. - FILE

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

Leonard Green, president of the All-Island Truckers' Association, has taken issue with the fact that his organisation was not invited to the recent workshop hosted by the Mines and Geology Division to advise stakeholders of a scaling down of the Rio Minho sand mining and quarrying operations in Clarendon, due to the severe shortage of river sand.

He says this is symptomatic of the disdain with which truckers have been treated by the authorities over the years in regard to matters which directly affect their livelihood.

"We lament the approach by the authorities on a number of issues where they are not consulting some of the stakeholders because a significant number of our truckers eke out their living through the haulage of aggregate and other material, and if there is a shortage, then it would affect truckers directly. We have not been advised at all. I didn't know that there was going to be a discussion," Green disclosed.

Green, whose organisation represents truckers from various haulage contractors, said his members understand the importance the risk of erosion and other environmental issues associated with sand mining and quarrying. However, he pointed to the establishment of a permanent truck weigh station in Harbour View, St Andrew, as a major contributing factor to the sand shortage, with many truckers now opting not to haul aggregate from St Thomas and moving their operations to Aqualta Vale in St Mary (Wag Water and Dry River) as well as Clarendon (Rio Minho).

This is because the police, who man the weigh station full time, have been vigilant in cracking down on truckers who exceed the weight limit, forcing offenders to dump portions of their load and/or ticketing them for the infraction. Truckers, who are paid largely by the volume of the goods they haul, have been avoiding this section of the island, to the extent that they can.

"All the truckers moved to those two areas (Wag Water and Rio Minho) and those mines could not supply the demand. So I think the way the weight-limit restriction system was approached might have affected the situation," he opined.

FALL-OFF IN BUSINESS

John Valentine, a director of Jamaica Aggregates, which has its quarrying/mining base in Yallahs, agrees, pointing out that the company has suffered a 30 to 40 per cent fall-off in business since the weigh station was established about a year ago. He told The Gleaner that while, in principle, they support the reasons given by the authorities for the weight restriction - preserving the integrity of the roads - they have been far less than fair and equitable in enforcing the law.

"The only weigh scale that exists in Jamaica is the one at Harbour View, so that is only capturing the traffic from that side. The truckers cannot carry a full load of material. They have to carry a reduced load in order to meet the weigh bridge. It has driven a lot of business away from our plant because they cannot get around the weigh scale, there is no alternate route to drive and it's a permanent facility, so they have to pass there and it's always open," he shared.

Valentine explained that on the other hand, truckers going for instance from Wag Water to Montego Bay are not likely to encounter the same level of surveillance from the traffic police in that section of the island, who use a temporary scale, which is transported to the site as needs dictate.

He explained: "It might be there today for four hours and you don't see it again, and from the first trucker sees the scale, him just call and alert the others and them hold strain until the scale move, and then them free again. They get paid by the weight and the more weight they carry, the more money they make. So the purpose for which the scales are put there is defeated because of the inequitable application in the use of them. In other words, you are only policing part-time, but out at East (Harbour View), it is full-time."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com