Logging trucks or timber trucks, as they are sometimes referred to, have been in the news again. In a news story in this publication’s Sunday edition, the driver of one these trucks escaped very serious injury or death, when his truck and lumber-laden trailer toppled into a ravine, as he attempted to cross the Christmas Bridge on the Linden-Lethem trail last Friday.
The fortunate driver suffered injuries to his back and required medical attention, as observers were quick to point out the treacherous state of the trail, as the possible source of the accident due to the constant traversing of these heavily laden vehicles in the current rainy season.
It is ironic that this unfortunate accident occurred three days after there was a gathering in Linden of senior government officials and other stakeholders, to discuss a number of problems, including the numerous accidents, many of them fatal, over the years, attributed to these logging trucks on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway. In attendance at the meeting were two government ministers, regional and municipal councillors, representatives of the Guyana Forestry Com-mission (GFC) and other stakeholders.
Various ideas were proposed and solutions discussed to the burgeoning problem of these logging trucks and the wear and tear which they are exercising on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, the Wismar-MacKenzie Bridge, and the Linden-Lethem trail and surrounding farmland, the gateway to the Hinterland.
One of the proposals mooted was the return of shipping timber via the Demerara River. Prior to the opening of the 45 mile (72 kilometres) long Linden-Soesdyke Highway in 1969, logs were shipped via the river, a practice which is considered, in some quarters, to be too expensive today. Perhaps, this idea can be revisited with the expert assistance of our Canadian friends, who, since the 1860’s, have developed and perfected the art of driving cribs or rafts of square timbers over their rivers and lakes. These extremely large rafts guided by tugs, barges and winches, and expertly manoeuvred by skillful lumberjacks, are very still cost effective today.
Alternatively, government could consider developing Linden as the final destination point for the movement of logs from the interior by truck, and provide incentives for the development of the sawmilling industry there, or at other hubs along the river, or, for that matter, even further in the Hinterland. Anyone fortunate to have witnessed the collapsible sawmill in operation at the Guyana Timber Expo over the last weekend at the Guyana National Stadium, would have seen how quickly that this concept could become a reality.
Whilst we await further discussions, the problems of the logging trucks still remain. The GFC, although acknowledging that it is not responsible for the regulation and enforcement of the traffic laws surrounding the trucking industry has taken the lead in this area. Last Thursday, on its website, the GFC posted several suggestions.
Firstly, the forestry regulatory body has instituted a curfew on the transport of forest products, including logs and lumber on all public roadways after 6:00 pm, in a bid to reduce accidents. In addition, all vehicles transporting forestry products must have reflectors attached to the truck/produce that are clearly visible from a distance to all road users travelling behind the vehicles. Reflector cones will also have to be kept permanently on the vehicles and to be used properly when the trucks have to be “unavoidably parked” on the public roadways.
It is great to see an immediate action being taken following such a meeting, but will the directive be followed? If so, and for how long? The time has arrived for the development of stricter guidelines for the use of the road by heavy duty vehicles and equipment, and their stiff enforcement by a special mobile department, which could be attached to either the police force or the appropriate government ministry. The vehicles coming under this area of supervision would also include container trucks, trucks transporting bulk rice for export, and trucks carrying sand and stone.
Truck drivers should be subjected to annual health checkups and be required to keep logs of their driving times, which should be regulated to a maximum of eight to ten hours per day. The time period of 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, the current regulatory standard, needs to be strictly enforced. Accelerator inhibitors should be installed in all trucks carrying extra heavy loads, not just logging trucks, to limit the maximum speed of these vehicles.
The size of the logging trucks and their load bearing capacity seem to grow with each decade. Our roadways were not designed to support these loads. The time has come for our main thoroughfares to be rebuilt with this mind, and put a halt to the never-ending patching exercises. Our roadways should be strictly zoned, allowing only vehicles of specific weight/carrying class on specific roads.
Toll and weigh stations for logging trucks for monitoring, and enforcing regulations will be required sooner rather than later, and all future major road development plans should include space for their installation, as well as truck stops for overnight parking.
The conversation on logging trucks has begun. Let’s hope that it doesn’t peter out in a lay-by on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway.