Vietnam's transport minister has warned that truckers and companies overloading their vehicles could face criminal punishment as the country looks to tackle one of the major causes of traffic accidents.
"This is an act of 'deliberate destruction of national assets,'" Dinh La Thang said at a recent meeting in Hanoi.
“We need to add regulations to impose criminal charges on any business whose trucks exceed the load limit by a large margin,” Thang said.
His ministry put 63 weigh stations into use last year to deal with rampant truck overloading.
From April to early November, these stations inspected 312,041 vehicles, most of them cargo trucks, and found that 15 percent were overloaded.
“When there’s no more truck overloading, traffic accidents and corruption will reduce,” Thang said, referring to the problem of truckers offering bribes to transport more goods than they are allowed to.
Figures from the ministry showed reductions in both traffic accidents and deaths last year.
It is not clear how many of these accidents were linked to truck overloading.
There were 25,322 traffic accidents reported in 2014, down 13.8 percent. The number of deaths dropped 4 percent to 8,996.
But accidents classified as “especially serious” rose in a number of provinces, for instance, by more than 10 percent in Quang Tri in central Vietnam, and Vinh Long and Ben Tre in the south.
Lao Cai Province up north was heavily criticized by state officials at for having the highest number of severe accidents and for letting so many overloaded trucks roam its streets.
Its top leaders were absent.
Le Quy Vuong, Vice Minister of Public Security, said that the ministry will review traffic police’s performances with both open inspections and secret surveillance this year.
He said police officers showing signs of extorting bribes, such as stopping a vehicle for no apparent violation or without checking papers, or stopping too many vehicles at a time “will be strictly dealt with."