Thursday, Dec 01, 2022

Cargo movement: Bridging the load

Inventory for over 1,35,000 structures has already been completed till February, of which about 90,000 are culverts and rest are bridges

BHEL, Bharat heavy electricals limited, ministry of road and transport, cargo movement, road construction, infrastructure development, road projects, cargo shipping Illustration: C R Sasikumar

Five years ago, when it received a shipment of a 450-tonne stator from technology partner Siemens at Mumbai port, state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) decided against unloading it there due to logistical constraints. Instead, it chose to transport the consignment by barge to Karwar, from where it was moved to Raichur, the final destination in Karnataka, for which, BHEL’s logistics contractor had to build 15 bypasses enroute to ensure that the cargo reaches Raichur safe and sound. Constructing bypasses to move large-sized cargo has become a routine affair for engineering firms such as BHEL, mainly because there are generally no reliable estimates on the adequacy of most road bridges, specifically on their weight-bearing capacity. Companies such as Larsen & Toubro face the same problems for moving heavy, or over-dimensional (OD) cargo from their factories to the sites where they are to be deployed.

An initiative by the Ministry of Road transport and Highways to launch a structural rating plan for bridges in the country now heralds hope for movers of OD cargo and the progress of infrastructure projects across the country. Under the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) that was launched in October, inventory and condition assessment of all the existing bridges on National Highways is to be carried out. Under this, inventory for more than 1,35,000 structures has already been completed till February this year, of which about 90,000 are culverts and the rest are bridges, officials involved in the exercise said. Over time, IBMS is touted to be the largest platform in the world owned by a single owner, with database that could exceed 1,50,000 bridge structures. In addition to the structural rating, the bridges are also being assigned Socio-Economic Ratings, which will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area.

This is especially important in a country like India, where, as a thumb rule, bridges are constructed with the maximum weight adequacy being defined in terms of the structure being able to take the weight and dimensions of the Arjun MBT tank. The move to launch the IBMS is aimed at ensuring proper and timely upkeep of bridges, wherein the starting point is the creation of a database of these structures. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had, at the launch of the structural rating platform, admitted that the “poor condition of bridges hampers efficient transport and has also led to accidents and loss of lives on several occasions”. The IBMS, he said, “aims to fill this gap by preparing a database of all bridges in the country and detailing their structural condition so that timely action can be taken to repair the structures or build new ones in their place.”

The lack of a credible database on bridges has led to a situation where it proved maintaining their proper upkeep difficult. IBMS would lead to the creation of an inventory of all bridges in the country and a rating of their structural condition, so that timely repair and rehabilitation work can be carried out based on the criticality of the structure, an official in the Ministry of Roads indicated.

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Alongside the standardisation of the structural standard of bridges, which will be followed up with their load-bearing capacity explicitly being mentioned on the structures, a streamlining of clearances for OD cargo movement on them is of vital importance. “Alongside the problem of there being no specifications on whether bridges can take the weight of an OD cargo, there is currently no single authority that can issue certificates for inter-state movement of large-sized cargo. The permission is issued only at the state-borders, after the consignment reaches there,” according to Manish Kataria of the Hydraulic Trailer Owners Association of India. The harassment that truckers face throughout the journey, from state transport officials, policemen and at tax barricades, only compounds the problem further.

The Roads Ministry, officials said, has launched a web portal for online approval of movement of OD and Over Weight Cargo (OWC), a move that would avoid transit delays in movement of equipment by Modular Hydraulic Axle Trailers. “There has been a pressing need to have well-set guidelines for heavy haulage by road that can combine requisite clearances from multiple agencies such as the Public Works Department, the National Highways Authority of India for using roads and bridges; the State Electricity Boards for overhead wires and the Railway Board for railway bridges. Lack of standardised rules across states makes this difficult,” Kataria said.

Alongside the IBMS, the state-owned National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has also awarded a consultancy contract for technical assistance to strengthen Asset Management capacity of NHAI and the Ministry and the target for completion of the work is October, 2017. The scope of the work include development of an upgraded Road Asset Management System (RAMS) and Pilot Survey Data collection through a survey vehicle for 3,000 km length of NHs. The database for 3,000 km of NHs has been developed and hosted on NHAI server, an official said.

First published on: 05-09-2018 at 02:03:00 am
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