Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

The inexplicable overloading in the African transport sector

Article from AFRIC Editorial
Many years ago, Africa used road and water systems which are the oldest form of transportation of people and goods in this continent. Today like the rest of the world, rail and air transport systems are also used although still undergoing development. Laws governing all these forms of transport are likely violated in overpopulated countries and those with insufficient transport infrastructure. These rules are set to limit over-speeding, drivers without licenses, unregistered transport vehicles and overloading to ensure the safety of people and also to protect transport infrastructure.

Personal vehicles owners, establishments that operate public transport with small taxi cars, taxi buses, luggage trucks and other transport related businesses are challenged by small/poor infrastructure, weak transport legal systems, old transport machinery and terrorist threats. Sometimes the resources owned by transport companies cannot meet up the demand of the service from their customers which forces them to overload, drive speedily and use their transport systems in prohibited zones.


The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in collaboration with the different Ministries of Transport and Transport Trade Unions has documented the details of transport activities in Africa since 1991 under the program; United Nations Transport And Communications Decade in Africa (UNTACDA). According to midterm report this 2019, about 600 people are killed daily in road accidents including pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists, 500 people killed annually in Air crashes, 50 killed monthly in train derailments and 1000 killed yearly in shipwrecks since 2011. This process, transport machinery and goods are also lost worth almost $30 million.

During the 81st Annual Session of the Inland Transport Committee (ITC) organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in Geneva on 22nd February 2019, it was resolved by the different stakeholders of Transport from many countries worldwide that; transport systems should be digitalized and automated. This is because the new agreement concerning transport technology which was open to adoption by signature to all UN member states, shows that transport machinery now has good and sustainable safety measures especially the rail and air sector.


Overloading in African transport systems is done more by private transport agencies mainly to meet up with the high demand of their services from customers and make quick profit. Overloading can cause accidents thus leading to injuries, death and damage of infrastructure. A Nigerian plane crashed due to overload on 20th February 2019 which was sneaking goods out of the an airport; one question remains unanswered, who was responsible?

Within the last decade, there have been frequent reports of plane crashes and train derailments; in Cameroon, the Mbanga Pongo plane crash and the Eseka train derailment which were both caused by overloading left hundreds dead and a dozen more severely injured. This is because passengers in the train sector deliberately avoid paying tickets through agency offices but prefer to bribe officials who check boarding passes with a lesser fair to board and overload the trains. Cases have also been reported where passengers bribe airport officials to sneak and travel with extra luggage which definitely causes overload.

South Africa, Egypt and Morocco are some of the few African countries that have invested in sustainable transport infrastructure, implemented insurance policies/transport laws and have encouraged trade unions through which they have attained good and sustainable transport safety.

Overloading is more evident in road transport which is the most common in Africa. When the maximum weight capacity of a vehicle is exceeded because of overload with passengers or luggage, it is likely to experience a decrease in acceleration because the car system is overworked, overheat in tyres which can explode and cause accidents.

When a vehicle is overloaded, sit belts are usually not used, the driver does not have enough space to operate the car, more force is exerted on the breaks to stop or slow down the vehicle which could lead to failure and thus an accident.
Overloading is highly practiced in some rural areas in Africa because they are neglected and have poor transport infrastructure, no insurance policies, lack of implementation of transport laws and road checks which leads to frequent accidents.
Many road accidents have also been registered due the congestion caused by street/road vendors who are forced to move between vehicles to sell their products; some have been run over by overloaded trucks and buses.


Establishments and Transport agencies that operate public transport should have their own weighbridges where they can check the weight of vehicles before take-off.
African State should add the number of official checkpoints and make sure the agents who work there are honest and effective in their duties especially stopping overloaded vehicles.

All vehicles should pass through weighbridges not only those carrying luggage.
Vehicle owners should read the instruction/caution manuals of their vehicles to be current with their capacities, speed limits, axle and gross weights.
The activities of the private sector road transport agencies should strictly be monitored against overloading. Apart from their number plates, the number of passengers, speed limits and the quantity of luggage should also be visibly inscribed on transport vehicles.
Programs should be organized to educate the public on road safety measures; TV/radio programs, adverts, billboards, newspapers, flyers, seminars given to drivers and in social gatherings.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image : google image

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