Lorry graft setback
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Lorry graft setback

The ugly conflict between national police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol and his deputy Surachate Hakparn has diverted public attention from serious corruption and other problems at the Royal Thai Police.

One is highway-related bribery. Last September, as was well reported at the time, a highway police officer, Pol Maj Sivakorn Saibua, deployed to tackle bribery by truck companies, was killed at the house of Praween Chankhlai, known as Kamnan Nok, a local influential figure in Nakhon Pathom.

After his death, the police chief vowed to arrest lorry operators who break the law by bribing police at vehicle weighing stations. Needless to say, those promises were just hot air.

But the public should not lose hope. A new initiative by the Transport Ministry to use innovation to detect overweight lorries raises hope that this endemic graft might be stopped. Last week, Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit announced that highway bribery linked to overloaded lorries must come to an end. He is rushing contractors to install automated weigh-in-motion systems at highways nationwide. They record the weight of vehicles without them having to stop.

The system comprises a 3D measurement system, and weigh-in-motion (WIM) sets that will hook up with licence plate recognition (LPR) cameras to help detect overloaded vehicles.

The Department of Highways (DoH) has installed the WIM technology and LPR cameras in 192 locations, and is rolling them out in 768 more areas across the nation.

Figures from the ministry show the digital system helps reduce the problem. From Oct 1, 2023, until June 19, a total of 2,107 cases of overweight vehicles were recorded, down from 2,659 in the same period the previous year, he said. The total number of cases recorded last year was 3,416, down from 3,488 cases in 2022.

Under the current system, highway police set up checkpoints to weigh trucks. Operators paid highway police to load more goods in their lorries. In return, the Land Transportation Association of Thailand (LTAT) revealed that officers gave out stickers to the drivers of heavy trucks as a "free pass" when it came to exceeding the weight limit and operating in the city outside the allowed hours.

Out of the 1.5 million lorry operators registered with the Department of Land Transport (DLT), the LTAT estimated about 200,000 regularly pay bribes so their trucks can carry loads beyond the limit. The bribes range from 3,000 baht–15,000 baht, depending on the load an operator wishes to put on a truck.

The move to install automated weighing technology at the ministry and also the BMA is a sign that Thailand will make use of digital innovation to improve public services and tackle corruption. Many countries have adopted online weighing systems to detect trucks' loads. For example, last year, New York City introduced an automated weigh-in-motion enforcement programme targeting overweight trucks on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) to reduce the number of overweight trucks on the road.

Last year, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) promised to install an online weighing system on 10 bridges and road spans. That raises the question of why we still need to rely on police to deal with overloaded trucks. Instead of relying on highway police, the government and local administrations should adopt automated weigh-in-motion systems. The Ombudsman and anti-graft teams can help audit the system to help prevent graft.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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