Truckers slam brakes on toll fees
The executive of the All Island Truckers Association has made it clear that its 34,000-strong membership will not be using the north-south leg of Highway 2000 as the preferred route for transporting commercial goods from the Corporate Area to western Jamaica. This, they said, was in light of the prohibitively heavy proposed toll fees that would make it impractical.
In fact, the executive body said some truckers have argued that the steep gradients along the 66-kilometre stretch could take a greater toll on their vehicles, and, using it would not be cost-effective or quicker.
"For a car, maybe, yes, it would end up shorter if your car is in excellent condition. But for a truck, you are concerned about a load that you are carrying and, as such, there is a need to select a very low gear. Especially for the Mammee Bay stretch, you have to drive at a very low speed for safety reasons," Executive Director JudithAnn Williams-Sharpe told The Gleaner.
"Whether going up or coming down, you need to be going slow in terms of safety. Going up, it would be necessary for protecting your vehicle from overheating. So using the highway is not necessarily faster for a loaded truck."
Her comments came in the wake of a press release from the association denouncing the proposed increased fees from the toll operators, which would see all truckers, irrespective of vehicle size, paying upwards of $7,400 per return trip to use the highway, as "an additional strain on tightly stretched pockets as the toll offers no reprieve from the existing cost of operations".
"Rather than being able to identify benefits to traversing this corridor, we have found several disadvantages," the release said.
"The toll road offers a smoother ride; however, truckers have indicated that they would rather stand the cost of front-end damage on the old road versus the highly likely engine damage they would face from overheating on the new toll, along with other possible mechanical issues, including brake failure."
It continued: "On the south coast toll road, smoke has been a fairly frequent hazard. Heavy fog as late as 9 a.m. on the new toll presents the same visibility challenge as presented by smoke; the only difference being fog is a daily occurrence, hence a much higher risk over which no one has any control."
The truckers argued further that there is no guarantee that traffic crashes on the toll road will not present the same delays as happens on the traditional routes when there is a road blockage and could, in fact, be worse, since instead of having several alternative roads, they would be stuck on a one-way toll road.