Shippers call for review of EAC vehicle height limit

Shippers Council of Eastern Africa says the region should consider at least 4.5 metres.

In Summary

•The Kenyan government has in recent weeks moved to enforce the East African Community (EAC) Vehicle Load Control Act.

•Apart from the height limit, it also puts limits on length of vehicles and maximum overall width allowed, with payable permits for those that exceed the limits. 

Kenyan trucks parked at the Uganda-South Sudan border of Elegu/HANDOUT
Kenyan trucks parked at the Uganda-South Sudan border of Elegu/HANDOUT

Shippers now want Kenya and her regional peers to consider a revision of the vehicle load rule on height, even as the government moves to temporarily halt its implementation.

The Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) had in recent weeks started implementing the East African Community (EAC) Vehicle Load Control Act, 2016, which had seen transporters in Kenya affected mainly on height.

The Act puts the overall height of vehicles at 4.3 metres and its implementation had hit transporters moving 40-foot high cube containers, which exceed the limit by about 0.2 metres.

Last week, the Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) had called on its members and importers to avoid the use of the type of container, to avoid their goods and vehicles being impounded by the authorities.

KeNHA has however temporarily suspended the implementation to allow consultation and how to implement the law.

"KeNHA has communicated that they will stop impounding trucks loaded with 40-foot high cube shipping containers until further notice. KTA wishes to thank KeNHA for a positive engagement and support," KTA chairman Newton Wang’oo said.

"We advice transporters to proceed and load 40-foot high cube containers and proceed with their journeys."

These are slightly bigger containers used in in international shipping and trade, that accommodate more goods than the normal 40-foot containers.

Apart from the height limit, the EAC Vehicle Load Control Act, 2016, also puts the maximum overall length of vehicles at 22 metres for combination vehicles (tractor-trailer, doubles, triples, straight truck with trailer), 17.4 metres for articulated vehicles and 12.5 metres for rigid vehicles, categories that trucks fall under.

The maximum overall width of vehicles under the EAC rule, for all categories, is 2.65 metres whilethe allowed projecting load limit (front and rear) is 1.25 metres. Projecting load limit on sides is 0.15 metres.

The rules have not been fully enforced since enactment, especially on height, with authorities allowing shipping lines and transporters to continue using high cube containers at no extra charges.

While abnormal load and vehicles exceeding the allowed limits are not completely banned, they can only be allowed subject to KeNHA granting an "exemption permit."

The permit gives conditions on times of travel and routes to be followed to protect public safety and road related infrastructure.

KTA has requested a 0.2-metre tolerance, noting the height has no negative impact on the roads or related infrastructure.

Shipping lines serving the Ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam mostly use the standard 20-foot, 40-foot low cube and the high cube units for containerised cargo.

According to KTA, the 40-foot high cube are the most preferred and account for the bulk (95%) of large containers used for international trade, as they give importers and exporters more room.

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) has called on KeNHA to engage stakeholders, against the backdrop that both the trucks and high cube containers meet the various standards, even as it calls on law makers to consider amending the law to increase the maximum height to at least 4.5 metres.

This will ensure the region does not lose out as most containers being used in international trade are high-cube, which Kenya uses for up to 90 per cent of its textile exports to the US.

They are also preferred avocado and mango exports.  

“Raising the total height to 4.5 metres from the current 4.3 metres would be ideal, ”SCEA acting chief executive Agayo Ogambi said.

The law can only be amended through a legislative process and passing by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

According to KeNHA, the implementing authority, other EAC Members would accuse Kenya of not being compliant with the implementation of the Act, if it goes ahead and continue allowing transporters to breach the set rules.

“It is the law. If there are any changes needed, then the law can be amended when all the EAC Partner States have agreed on the same, ” a top official at KeNHA told the Star.

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