Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng recently said that overloaded trucks pose a serious danger to road safety and he advised revising the Criminal Law so that the overloading of trucks is included in the crime of dangerous driving and those driving overloaded trucks face criminal penalties. Beijing Times commented:
Many drivers might have the bad experience of seeing an overloaded truck on the road. They pose a danger to the safety of all, as being overloaded means they need a longer distance to brake in case of emergencies and their weight might even threaten the integrity of bridges.
Data show that more than 50 percent of all road accidents are caused by the overloading of trucks. That's why almost all driving schools teach new drivers to stay away from overloaded trucks as if they were moving bombs.
It is absolutely necessary to take stricter measures to curb the overloading of trucks. However, the proposal of the minister might not solve the root problem. Transportation companies and truck drivers know the danger of overloading, too, but they still choose it because of the chaotic situation in the transport market.
The number of trucks on the roads has been growing fiercely for the past several years, as a result of which transport companies have to compete with each other by lowering their prices, which shrinks their profit margins.
Worse, the highway tolls are rather high. Official data show that China's road transportation costs are much higher than those of Europe and the United States, and highway tolls and other fees account for 20 percent of the costs. In a fresh survey, 56 percent of the transport enterprises have complained they will lose money if they do not require their drivers to overload their trucks.
Therefore, the minister's proposal of taking harsher measures might not be sufficient to solve the problem. As long as highway tolls remain high and transport enterprises have to overload their trucks in order to make money, the problem of overloading will remain.
In order to root out the problem, the authorities need to not only take harsher measures, but also lower the highway tolls and better regulate the market, so that drivers and transport enterprises can survive without overloading their trucks.