A crackdown by the transport department on vehicles overloading construction material and bringing them into the city has hit the supply and demand, affecting several projects and sending the price of materials like cement and steel soaring.

The industry has appealed for government intervention, stating nearly one-fourth of all construction activity has been affected.

The crackdown on overloading of lorries with construction material is based on provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act that restrict the weight that can be transported based on the type of lorry: nine tonnes for six-tyre vehicles and 15 tonnes for 10-tyre vehicles.

However, this rule has been frequently violated by lorry owners.

A few years back, the Supreme Court had instructed transport authorities to crackdown on lorries that were being overloaded, taking note of the fact that the practice had led to several road accidents.

Price hike

Following the crackdown, the price of cement has increased on an average by Rs. 60 per bag and that of steel has nearly doubled. “What is shocking is that the price of cement has increased dramatically in less than 10 days all over south India. This needs to be brought down first,” said Suresh Krishn, vice-president of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India, Chennai region.

A representative of a lorry owners association in the city suburb said since June 1, following the crackdown, the number of lorries transporting construction material — be it river sand from permitted sites or gravel from quarrying and crushing units — had reduced by more than half. The huge penalty levied if caught for violations, at the rate of nearly Rs. 3,000 for every tonne carried over the permissible limit, was the primary reason deterring lorries from taking up trips, he added.

“National Highways and even roads of the State highways department are being laid according to world standards and heavy vehicles come with additional features like multi-axles and are designed to carry loads as heavy as 35 tonnes. The latest move will force vehicles to make multiple trips and increase costs. The end user will suffer the most,” said R. Sivakumar of Builders’ Association of India, Southern Centre.

Players in the industry are coming together in an attempt to appeal to the State government for its intervention and for a reduction in raw material cost and expedition of construction activity, including a number of stalled government projects.

Officials of the department said the damage caused to roads by overloaded vehicles was huge.

More In: Chennai | Society