The signs on the dilapidated Tuk Thla bridge warning “Maximum 20 tons” are clearly visible to travelers on National Route 5 between Poipet and Sisophon, the provincial center of Banteay Meanchey.
The problem is that transport company drivers don’t seem to care, piling as much as 50 tons on one vehicle, said Banteay Meanchey’s Public Works and Transport director, Saing Savath.
“We used to instruct all companies to follow the traffic law, but they never do,” he said.
With about 70 trucks crossing the aging bridge each day, the disregard for weight limits is rapidly destroying the structure, said Saing Savath.
The heaviest trucks have caused entire logs to come loose and fall off, he said.
For the past 20 days, the bridge has been closed for repairs for about six hours a day, causing massive traffic jams, he said.
While government officials complain about damage to the bridge, the owner of one shipping company, who did not wish to be named, said his trucks must carry large amounts of goods in order to make a profit after paying off checkpoint officials on the road to Phnom Penh.
There are no fewer than five checkpoints along the 48 km stretch of Route 5 between Poipet and Sisophon, said one local journalist who covers transportation issues in the province.
Customs officials, Camcontrol, economic police and local law enforcement officers all have reportedly taken bribes from transport vehicles at the checkpoints, the journalist said.
But that’s no excuse for disobeying weight limits, Saing Savath said. To ensure that trucks are not overloaded, he has asked the Public Works and Transport Ministry to set up weigh stations in Poipet and in other provincial locations.
“All competent authorities should cooperate,” he said, adding that provincial departments cannot enforce the law alone.
The latest repairs to the bridge should be finished by Wednesday, Saing Savath said. The repairs will have cost $12,000, he said.