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Downpour forces transporters to change how they carry cargo

In a bid to keep cargo dry and safe during the rainy season, haulage companies prefer using detachable drop sides, which are efficient for transporting loose bagged goods.

Studies show tarpaulins, a heavy-duty waterproof clothe used in drop sides are useful for keeping hold of loose bulk cargo that might be affected by the movement of the truck.

“They are efficient when a company is moving loose cargo such as packages and pallets when there is heavy rain like now. It allows the use of tarpaulin as it also holds the cargo in place, thus they will not get wet or damaged. At the moment we are not using the drop sides but we had them last year when transporting bagged cargo,” said Transeast, a heavy haulage and transport company with a fleet size of over 130 trucks.

The firm has operational bases in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We detached from the trailers because we did not have specific cargo for their use. With containerised cargo, we are using the same trailers but with no drop sides, just flatbed trailers,” the firm said.

According to a study on the performance standards for the safe carriage of loads on road vehicles, drop side trailers are useful in transporting loose bulk goods as they enable easier loading.

“Loose bulk loads include quarry products, primary produce and demolition and waste material. These can be carried in tippers, drop-sided vehicles and tankers,” read the report.

“Tarpaulins also act as a secondary restraint system where an item might become loose from a mixed load such as a loose can or bottle, provided the tarpaulin is in sound condition without tears or holes.”

Besides this, drop sides are preferred by companies because of their versatility enabling transport of either containers or bagged cargo and hence not limiting on the type of freight a company can transport.

Transport and logistics companies like Siginon Group, which deal with all cargo including bagged, conventional and containerised cargo, have invested in drop sides in a bid to satisfy customer demands for efficient logistics solutions.

Last week, it announced it had purchased 22 new trucks with detachable drop side trailers worth Sh140 million increasing its current fleet of 250. This was to facilitate the movement of shipped cargo on the SGR to inland locations such as warehouses and factories.

“We are already using the SGR to move containers destined for inland and transit locations. In addition, we have engaged shipping lines for partnerships to ensure smooth and safe cargo delivery from SGR, via Inland Container Depots up to the doorstep of the consignee,” said Job Kemboi, general manager, Siginon Global logistics.

However as much as drop sides prevent the damage of goods during rainy seasons and facilitate the movement of different types of cargo, companies prefer detachable ones as drop sides are an additional weight to the trailers which are then forced to carry less cargo, eating into their revenue.

“If a company needs to transport 28 tonnes of cargo when using a drop side, they will have to reduce it by 1.5 tonnes, thereby loading only 26.5 tonnes and transporting less cargo than intended. If for example, one was supposed to be paid Sh28,000 per tonne, thus expecting Sh784,000, it will be reduced to Sh742,000. This is the onlydisadvantage that makes most truckers not to have the drop side on their trailers,” said Transeast.

Although there are drop sides that are permanently welded on the base of the trailer, these are ideal for companies that mostly deal with bagged cargo.

- African Laughter

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