The Association of European Vehicle Logistics (ECG) has called for an urgent review of restrictions on truck axle weights in Russia that it said are "severely restricting the car transport sector, wreaking havoc on manufacturers and transport companies". Normal operating axle limits of ten tonnes have been reduced to three or four tonnes for a three-month period.
The association said the regulations, which were introduced by the Ministry of Transport on 1st April and will be in force until 25th June, were harming consumers and providing an active disincentive to investment in the Russian automotive and logistics industries.
"The limits frequently mean that even an empty car transporter would exceed them and they are therefore unable to move," said ECG president, Costantino Baldissara, in an open letter to Russia's newly-sworn in president Vladimir Putin and the deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov. "The result, when there is no other way to move vehicles, means stockpiles building up in Russian ports and in the factory compounds."
Baldissara went on to warn that the factories will be brought to a halt within days if it is not possible to transport cars on to the compounds and dealerships.
The restrictions on heavy traffic have been brought in because the three months between April and June are characterised by excessive water damage to (often poorly maintained) roads caused by melting snow. Russia's Ministry of Transport has imposed a weight restriction on movements over the period for some time and last year brought in a tighter three-to-four tonne limit.
The current restrictions raise, once again, two of the major issues cited by carmakers and logistics providers as problematic to their business in Russia: government policy and infrastructure.
According to the ECG, the law allows individual regions to limit movements of heavy goods for periods of up to 30 days over the three months but those periods may differ from one region to the next, potentially extending the disruption for carriers operating on long routes. Penalties for contravening the law are high and the purchase of transport permits is expensive, sometimes as much as RUB2,500 ($64) per 100km. Obtaining the permits is also often a lengthy process, with applications taking a minimum of 15 days, said the ECG.
"By contrast, the vehicle logistics industry does its planning and load-building for deliveries to dealers no more than three days in advance, while manufacturers have a maximum storage capacity at their plants of just 5-8 days," said the ECG in a statement. "The permit process thus does nothing to prevent gridlock, plant shutdowns and soaring financial losses across an already hard-pressed industry."
In his letter Baldissara envisaged "huge financial losses" for transport companies operating in Russia and for any OEMs forced to stop production because of congested storage areas. He added that it could also "call into question the viability of investing in [Russia] if the infrastructure is unable to support industry".