Dear IFRTT subscriber, after rereading April’s newsletter about South Africa, and while I am writing the May one, feels that the volatile aura brought by the 50th anniversary of what was known as “the May 1968 events” has taken over South America too!
While I write this newsletter, Brazil is trying to come out from an eight days truckers’ strike against high prices of fuel. The Oil Workers Unions reported that they will join the truckers’ Union strike as an action of solidarity and have called a 72hs strike. The blockade has forced the cancellation of flights at several airports. So, roads blocked, no fuel, therefore no supplies, bringing the country to a halt and causing increases in food prices. The Brazilian president has sent the army into the streets to try to unblock the roads, but the development of the situation is still unknown.
Paraguay had its go at truck strikes and demonstrations in February this year. The two week strike, triggered by the Ministerial resolution Nº 74 of mid January 2018, authorizing in an experimental way the entry of Brazilian 7 axle B-doubles in the north of the Paraguayan territory, from the border with Brazil to the port of Concepcion in Paraguay, mainly for the million tons of soy to be exported. Once more the response of the local transport companies was road blockades and a general strike which lasted 15 days, and brought the country to a complete halt. I was told two bitrains were set on fire, but that could be only rumors. The strike finished only after an agreement between the strikers, the shippers and the Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC), to suspend for 12 months Resolution Nº 74, announcing that the Brazilians would operate in the North of the country only with conventional trucks.
Many countries in South America are trying to implement high capacity vehicles. Argentina for example, signed a presidential decree in April 2014 authorizing bitrains up to 75tons and 30.25meters to circulate nationally in specific corridors, regulated the decree in October 2015, but it was not until this January 2018, with a new Presidential Decree 32/2018, that the first national trial, with a 75ton 25.50meter forestry bitrain successfully left the outskirts of Buenos Aires towards another province in the Mesopotamia region 300km to the north, and another two 75 ton 22.90meter bitrains with rolls of steel made roundtrips within the province of Buenos Aires. The School of Bitrain Drivers in the province of San Luis, where bitrains circulate safely for the past 10 years, trained all drivers that drove these three bitrains. While in 2014 there was an uproar about the first decree by the different truck owners associations, this time there was a negotiation where the new Decree 32/2018 would also change the mass and dimensions of conventional trucks, into what it calls “scalability”, taking the previous GTW from 45ton up to 55ton, increasing the weight per tandem axles, and many other allowances negotiated with those associations.
In Chile, talks have been held this past year with various stakeholders, and we are yet to see what will come out from those talks.
In Uruguay, 7 axle bitrains of 20.50mt length and 57 tons GTW are allowed to circulate in only two corridors since November 2011, mostly for a forestry operation. With the neighbor countries -Brazil, Argentina- transporting “more with less”, it is a matter of time until private companies knock on the government’s door requesting similar vehicles.
The soccer world cup is about to kick off, and in parallel, Brazil which is “penta-champion” has started circulating the “Penta-train”, a 5 semi forestry truck of 50 meter total length, 120m3. They circulate in roads low levels of traffic , so that the very high capacity vehicles do not share the road with other vehicles. You may see in the video (and the picture) that tunnels have been built to go under the main roads, to allow these very HCV to circulate.
Safe travels everyone, and I look forward to meeting you in Rotterdam so we can exchange more news and views.
IFRTT Vice President for Central and South America