The boulder export business has resumed in Phuentsholing after a halt of almost three weeks.
Business resumed after the trucks were allowed to carry more than the permissible weight as it did before the load restriction was implemented. Boulders were still exported from Samtse after the restriction but in low volumes.
Several trucks exited the gate yesterday and on June 10 evening. At the weighbridge near the truck parking yesterday, 10-wheeler trucks loaded with more than 40 metric tonnes (MT) of boulders had come to get the weigh slip.
Truck drivers confirmed that they have started carrying the boulders “just like before.”
However, there is no official confirmation if the overload is allowed. Officials working for relevant agencies claim they did not receive any formal directives and notifications.
A transporter in Phuentsholing said they have started their shipment now. “We are very happy with the decision made by the government to lift this restriction.”
The transporter said it would benefit everyone.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) put the load restriction, asking relevant authorities to strictly monitor the load capacity. The restriction left hundreds of dumper trucks, which were mainly involved in boulder export stranded.
Later, the government increased the carrying capacity considering the changes in India. However, exporters and transporters said the increase was negligible.
Prior to the strict load restriction, a 10-wheeler truck carried about 25-40MT of boulders excluding the vehicle weight. It was reduced to 25MT gross vehicle weight (GVW) for a 10-wheeler. The government increased the GVW to 28MT later.
Today, a 10-wheeler dumper truck charges Nu 800-900 per MT to carry the boulders to Fulbari, from where it is trans-shipped to Banglabandha.
With the permissible limit of 28MT GVW for a 10-wheeler that has a weight of about 11MT, exporters say the net weight of boulder would just be 17MT.
This means a 10-wheeler dumper truck would do a business of Nu 13,600 to Nu 15,300 in one consignment. Only four to five consignments are made in a month. This, exporters, transporters and truckers said was not feasible.
Drivers are also paid Nu 15,000 to Nu 18,000 per month. Exporters say there are about 2,000 trucks into boulder business.
The load restriction was implemented strictly after it was found that exporters in Gelephu carried beyond permissible limits but did not declare.
ACC also highlighted syndicate corruption practices across the border. The commission asked relevant authorities to enforce RSTA Act 1999 strictly.
Exporters and transporters in Phuentsholing and Samste, however, said they have always declared whatever they exported, and claimed that the media had misreported.
Meanwhile, section 68 of the RSTA Act 1999 states, “A person must not drive or allow a motor vehicle to be driven on a highway if the vehicle is carrying a load which is in excess of the manufacturers’ specifications (overloaded) for that type of vehicle or it exceeds the gross vehicle weight for the vehicle.”
The Lhengye Zhungtshog (Cabinet) revised the fees and charges for export of surface collections and riverbed materials on May 28. The revised rate came into effect on June 5. The revision was made to address the rate differences and minimise revenue leakages.
As per the revised rate, export permit fee was increased to Nu 20 per truckload (TL) from Nu 10. The service charges are collected based on the number of wheels of the trucks at the exit point along with the permit fees.
With the revision, a six-wheeler truck would now be charged Nu 300 per TL. A 10-wheeler will be charged Nu 450 per TL. A 12-wheeler will be charged Nu 550 per TL; a 14-wheeler Nu 600 per TL and 18-22 wheeler will be charged Nu 650 per TL.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing