About two weeks ago, a huge truck caused a bridge to collapse in Pangasinan.
The DPWH later said this was due to overloading. I do not know whether the public had noticed, but the number of big 12 to 20 wheeler trucks plying our highways have increased over the years.
This is why I am a bit surprised it has taken so long for this to happen. It is not known whether these huge imported second hand trucks whose loading capacities are putting too much strain on our highways and bridges have been remodeled locally to carry heavier loads.
If these trucks have been remodeled, I hope they have with government permits as required by the Anti-Carnapping Law.
That fully loaded truck must have weighed about 25 or more tons while traversing a bridge that can only take a maximum of 20 tons.
Up to this time, we do not know whether charges were filed against the truck owner for damaging the bridge or DPWH will shoulder the repair cost.
What might be happening is that these imported reconditioned trucks upon reaching the country are locally remodeled to increase the load capacity.
To do this, importers must first secure government permits. If they do not, they are in violation of Section 2 of the Anti-Carnapping Law. Remodeling changes the vehicles identity, hence, a permit is needed.
Given that these trucks are already very heavy, no remodeling should be allowed.
As the DPWH very well knows, road maintenance is directly correlated to road use and these heavy trucks are doing serious damage to our public roads.
The more vehicles using the road, the more maintenance is required.
If we add overloaded trucks into the mix, maintenance expenditure will go up astronomically.
There are supposed to be many weighing stations all over our highway system but these facilities are not fully manned or are outright empty.
This is perhaps one of the reasons why truck owners are emboldened to overload their trucks.
The consequence, of course, was that bridge in Pangasinan collapsing and damaged roads making them dangerous to motoring.
For instance, there are weigh stations upon entering our expressways but we do not see the heavy trucks stopping at these weigh stations for checkup.
What if it happens along the 5-kilometer Pampanga viaduct?
It would cause a monumental traffic jam that would take much longer to repair. Although it is currently being widened, that bridge needs more retrofitting because the trucks using the bridge are also getting much bigger.
Furthermore, the bridge has been made into three lanes instead of the original two.
The bridge is also already old having been around since the late 1970s if I remember correctly and badly needs upgrading.
Over the 15 years, we have seen an unprecedented road building program by various administrations.
Our divided highways or freeways have been increasing thru the years.
As a rule of thumb, a country our size which is about 300.000 square kilometers should have a minimum road network of about 300,000 kilometers or one kilometer of road for every square kilometer.
I do not think we have reached 300,000 kilometers yet but we are closing on that number from what I know.
It is not enough, however, to simply build roads.
The roads must be up to standards in design and construction.
The roads must also have to be well maintained with proper lighting, adequate traffic signs and devoid of road hazards to make driving for all motorists safe.
We also need a robust law enforcement presence in our highways.
There used to be Highway Patrol Teams assigned in every Province until discontinued by the Secretary of Interior and Local Government during the last Aquino administration.
That was a wrong move and the PNP should return them with added capabilities.
With motorization increasing rapidly and the frequency of road accidents going thru the roof, they are needed more than ever.
The Highway Patrol also used to conduct inspection of repair shops big or small to ensure that these facilities were complying with the provisions of the Anti-Carnapping Law or RA10883.
The Philippines is one of the few countries that still allow the importation of second hand vehicles of every kind.
Trucks, buses, sedans, SUVs and even right hand drive vehicles. All our traditional jeepneys for instance, use engines that can be 20 years old or older.
Almost all our provincial buses are reconditioned second hand buses.
It is time the government enacted laws or regulations to better manage, monitor and control second hand vehicle importation for health reasons and as a climate change initiative to cut vehicle pollution.
As we build more roads and modernize our highway system, motorists must also learn how to use our freeways and other national roads properly.
Road use cannot be free for all as many would want to do. There are responsibilities. But this seems to be lost in the minds of many of us.