Friday 21 Jun 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 19): Malaysia’s ongoing truck driver strike, which started and remains largely limited to the east coast states, is threatening to once again disrupt the country’s supply chain that is still going through a nascent recovery post-pandemic.

Transportation from raw materials like iron ore, steel bar and concrete products, to basic needs like food and beverages appear to be throttling in the past few days amid widely circulated WhatsApp messages calling for a truck drivers’ strike until Sunday (Oct 22).

Several construction companies contacted by The Edge said that the current strike among the lorry drivers have reduced the productivity of their construction sites as many of the raw materials delivery did not come in.

A construction company executive said that if the strike prolongs for another few days, his construction site may have to stop work.

“Some of the work at the construction site has been disrupted as the deliveries of raw materials have been disrupted.

“If the situation continues, I think it will have an impact on some of our sites and we may have to stop work,” he told The Edge when contacted.

Another construction executive pointed out some of the construction sites have reduced their activities to around 30% as the strike had actually started since the beginning of this month.

“It has caused delays to our project. We hope that the government will step in to solve this issue. The government should look into the matters and take appropriate action,” he said.

Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Trucking Association (Seklta) secretary general Jeff Teh said some of the association’s members have avoided serving the east coast region temporarily for fear of risking their drivers’ safety.

The widely circulated calls for truck drivers to go on strike may lead to personal issues among the drivers who are seen as not being united with the striking drivers.

More stringent enforcement after several fatal accidents

Teh explained that the current strike came about after a series of trucks being seized by enforcement agencies, which appear to be more stringent in enforcing the road transport laws, after several fatal accidents involving overloaded trucks.

“Overloading is not rare in Malaysia. So, there are two laws to deal with overloading, if a truck is overloaded up to 34.9%, it falls under the Road Transport Act 1987, which would result in two compounds of RM300, one each to the driver and to the vehicle owner.

“For overloading above 35%, it comes under the Land Public Transport Act 2010, which comes with a fine that could range between RM1,000 to RM500,000, with maximum imprisonment of two years, and the enforcement agency can seize the vehicle,” he explained.

On Tuesday, local media reported that over 1,000 truck drivers demonstrated at the Kuantan Road Transport Department (JPJ).

This came after more than 1,000 lorry drivers staged a protest in Terengganu at the state’s JPJ office on Oct 15. The drivers handed over a memorandum to the local police listing eight demands, including raising the allowance for loading by 50% and proposed a fine on load consignors in case of overloading.

These lorry drivers also demanded that drivers should not be fined and lamented that the weighing facilities at JPJ are not accurate.

While there is a proposal for the Ministry of Transport (MOT) to ease loading regulations, concerns that overloaded trucks could cause damage to the country’s road need to be balanced.

The Malaysia Trucking Federation (MTF) had on Tuesday issued a statement that distanced itself from the strike and urged its members to “ignore any announcement, audio messages or any written statements by any parties” to plan a nationwide protest.

The federation called on its members to proceed with their normal daily operations, saying that they are obliged to obey the law and orders in Malaysia.

“Please be reminded that it is MTF's direction to promote the collaboration with other stakeholders that relate to our industry, so as to find solutions in the event of any conflicts or challenges,” it said.

Calls for government intervention

Seklta’s Teh said the association and MTF shared similar views, whereby they hope to resolve the overloading issues through constructive engagement with the government.

“We also organised a press conference before, our call is for JPJ to consider abandoning mobile weighing facilities for trucks, because they seem less accurate and those permanent facilities that are built along the highways are more accurate, and we don’t mind heading there,” he said.

Teh said Seklta also hopes the government could enact laws that in the event of overloading, enforcement agencies could engage with consignors in resolving this issue instead of penalising drivers and vehicle owners.

“To be fair, JPJ is heading in the right direction in addressing overloading, because those accidents can involve overloads of between 70% and 140%, which is dangerous,” he said.

The government, particularly the MOT, appears to be in a catch-22 situation with the public calling for more stringent enforcement on lorry and trucks to ensure road safety while the transportation players are complaining that their rice bowls are being squeezed under current rules and regulations.

Edited ByKamarul Azhar Mohamad Azmi
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