Shipping & Logistics

Truckers now shift to specialised cargo


Truck companies are now focusing on special loads as SGR poses tough competition. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Road truckers are shifting their focus to transporting specialised cargo to remain a float following the new directive which will be in force starting today requiring all imported cargo destined for Nairobi and other regions to be transported by railway.

In the past few months since the issuance of the directive that cargo be ferried through the standard gauge railway (SGR), a number of truck owners have turned to transporting wide load and bulk clinker which require specialised handling. This is evident by a number of trucks being converted to ferry such commodities and cargo in truck body building centres in Mombasa. Mr Bonthula Rao, Transtrailers general manager, one of the top truck body building companies, said demand for specialised trucks has increased significantly.

Mr Rao said in the past one month there have been increased requests for trucks with low loaders and extendables to carry special cargo that cannot be ferried by the standard gauge railway (SGR).

“Demand for refurbishments of trucks has increased and we attribute this to business shift from transportation of normal cargo to specialised cargo,” said Mr Rao.

Due to the rising demand for specialised trucks, he said they have increased the number of workers to more than 100. The firm has also invested in the new ways of manufacturing high quality trailers.

“The new laws are favouring us as importing new trucks is now becoming expensive, that is why truck owners have resolved to use local manufacturers,” he said.

Companies handling specialised cargo in Mombasa include Trans Traders Company, P.N Mashru, Seven Stars, Signon Carriers and Buzeki Enterprises.

To move oversize cargo, specialised care and road safety precautions need to be adhered to in order to minimise road accidents. Thus, customised trucks are recommended to those offering such services.

Abnormal cargo, according to the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) Regulations 2013, is one that exceeds the legal load or dimensional limits under the Road Traffic Act.

The overall length for rigid vehicle is restricted at 12.5 metres, that of articulated vehicles at 17.4 metres, while a combination of vehicles is 22 metres under the traffic law.

In June, specialised trucks handled more than 112,728 metric tonnes of bulk clinker with records at the Kenya Port Authority (KPA) indicating an increasing number of abnormal cargo which cannot be transported by railway.

SGR, a flagship project of the Kenya Vision 2030 billed as the biggest transport infrastructure in the country's history, is expected to haul close to nine million tonnes of cargo to make a profit of Sh5.08 billion in a year, averaging Sh424 million earnings monthly. In the first year of operation, SGR ferried 990,488 tonnes of cargo, but made a loss of close to Sh10 billion.

According to statistics, since the introduction of 100 per cent ex-hook railage in May this year, KPA dispatches at least 10 SGR cargo trains carrying more than 1,000 containers to Nairobi every day.

In January, SGR recorded 214 trains, February 172, March 184 while in April and May 203 trains transported cargo to Nairobi. June recorded the highest performance at an average of 13 trains per day.

Most of the cargo transported from Mombasa, according to records, are French beans, coffee and empty containers which has boosted the volumes transported.

Uganda who are the major users of the Northern Corridor has commended Kenyan government's move to make it mandatory for all conventional cargo to be transported by railway saying it will reduce the time for transporting cargo to Kampala by two days.