The Baltic Course  

Transport by road - special rules

Transport of heavy and nonstandard cargo in Latvia is regulated by institutions subject to the Ministry of Transport.

The Latvian Directorate of Road Safety's traffic rules Nr. 15, in effect since January 19, 1999, determine (paragraph 155) maximum dimensions of vehicles (with or without cargo) as well as maximum actual weight or load on axles permitted in transport of goods without a special permit in the territory of Latvia.

According to European standards, the weight of a vehicle must not exceed 40 tons. The same standard applies to Latvia. In some countries, for example, Switzerland and Finland the weight of a vehicle must not exceed 60 tons. This standard depends on the construction of roads (the thickness of the gravel fill and others). Unified standards are one of the preconditions of a competitive market in Europe.

The state limited liability company Latvijas Autocelu Direkcija or the Latvian Road Directorate, issues permits for transport by road. The procedure of receiving a permit and the tariff for this service is provided by Cabinet regulations Nr. 48 and Nr. 49, dated February 6, 2001, (issued in accordance with the 5th article of the Latvian Law on Roads) and comply with European directive Nr. 96/53EC, which provides rules for transport by road in Europe.

One of the most important amendments to rules Nr. 48 refers to the very definition of cargo, which is to be indivisible, that is, of one piece. A permit is issued for each piece of heavy or nonstandard cargo. Other amendments refer to the transport of timber and wood products. Owing to strong lobbies in the government, the timber industry has succeeded in obtaining special permission to have the weight of their cargo increased up to 52 t. Carriers of dry building materials (sand, gravel and others) also expected to obtain special permission but their requests (for example, the Broceni cement factory, which has rejected transport by rail and transports sand from sand-pits to the factory by road) were not taken into consideration when adopting these amendments to the rules.

The length of approximately 50% of all containers (including refrigerators) exceeds the maximum standard permitted length of 4 meters (4.10-4.15). Permits for standard cargo on standard routes (containers and other international transit cargo) may be obtained on the border (at seven border crossings around Latvia). Another innovation - long-term permits up to 3 months may be issued for regularly conducted transport (for example, for trailers used by an asphalt-paving company).

The issue of permits for heavy or nonstandard cargo in Latvia lies on the axle load. Cargo transport on bridges crossing the River Daugava in Riga must be coordinated with the Rigas Tilti municipal bridge company. A permit may be obtained at the Latvian Road Directorate in 10 minutes time (if the carrier or an authorized person can answer all question in the questionnaire). In special cases, when it is necessary to analyze conditions of transport and work out a route, the procedure may take up to 14 days.

As for the tariffs for permits (including special routes for heavy and nonstandard cargo), they differ in each country. Compared with Estonia and Lithuania, this service in Latvia is the most expensive. Tariffs depend on the extent to which weight and size of the cargo exceed the standard as well as on route distance. The Latvian Road Directorate also collects 1 lat for each issued permit. The amendments to rules Nr. 49 reduce all tariffs, except for special cases, and according to the director of the department of traffic management at the road directorate, Maris Zalaiskalns, tariffs in Latvia in general will be lower than those in neighboring countries. The reason being an attempt to attract cargo traffic to Latvian ports. With the introduction of the euro, tariffs for these services will most probably become standardized.

According to the directorate, 10-15 permits for the transport of especially heavy (more than 75 t) and nonstandard cargo are issued monthly. Cargo exceeding 100 t is very rare and most often connected with the field of power supply. In total, the Latvian road directorate issued 2,200 permits for heavy cargo in Latvia and 2,200 - for international cargo in the year 2000. In 2001 - 2,500 permits for internal cargo and 2,200 - for international cargo. A large part of the international cargo consist of timber products and goods from the textile industry.

The Latvian Directorate of Road Transport is responsible for regulating and protecting the market of transport of goods by road. The directorate issues licenses for international and internal transport of goods and passengers and permits for the international transport of goods and passengers.

For market surveillance and control, the directorate has set up a department which controls commercial transport. There are 8 control posts in Latvia, special inspection rules have been worked out. In 2000 inspectors of the directorate inspected 24,000 vehicles. 600 carriers received warnings, but 56 - were fined. In general, the main type of violation was exceeded cargo weight. (On main roads it is allowed to transport 40 t, on other roads - not more than 30 t.). 1.5 thousand vehicles were inspected - the main violators were log trucks, transporters of road construction equipment and refrigerators. The record was set by a log truck carrying 82.8 t. The problem is caused by the fact that permits for heavy cargo can be issued only to indivisible cargo, but they are often issued also to divisible cargo. According to the directorate, there is only one solution - to introduce more severe fines.

The transport of nonstandard and hazardous cargo is to be coordinated in advance with the Department of Road Safety at the Ministry of Transport and they need additional special permits issued by this department. In case of need the department provides transport of such cargo in Latvia with special vehicles.