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'Temporary solution' ends truck entry ban at Saudi border

Riyadh had shared decision to ban entry of old trucks with officials

In this undated photo, trucks can be seen driving on a highway in Jordan. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The pile-up of trucks at the Saudi border has finally ended. On Wednesday, more than 100 trucks from Jordan were finally allowed to enter Saudi Arabia. اضافة اعلان

The trucks, which were stranded between the two borders and loaded with perishable goods, were previously barred from entering Saudi territory due to a decrease in permitted service life, leading to the accumulation of about 100 trucks on the Jordanian-Saudi border since Monday.

Head of the Truck Owners Association Mohammad Al-Daoud told Jordan News in an interview that “this is merely a temporary solution, and we cannot deny that this decision took us by surprise. It is unjust, and the damage it caused is estimated at JD600 million.” 

Officials were still in negotiations with Saudi Arabia, he said, about seeking a “one-and-for-all solution” that could require “potential improvements in the agreement.”

Minister of Transportation Wajeeh Azayzeh said: “We have solved the problem through communication. We fully respect our sister state’s decision, but we hope to be given a period of time during which we can set things straight. We have yet to hear from the Saudi authorities on that.”

Although Daoud mentioned that the decision came unexpectedly on short notice, former minister of transportation, Lina Shbeeb, believes that the decision was “foreshadowed”.

She said Saudi Arabia had previously stated that trucks which “exceed a certain period in service” would ultimately not be allowed to cross the borders.

Shbeeb is not alone in thinking that the new rules were anticipated. The new regulations were communicated to the Jordanian Customs Department by their Saudi counterpart on April 4, 2021, three weeks prior to the decision, which was insufficient to implement the new restrictions, according to Musa Al-Saket, businessman and founder of the “Made in Jordan” campaign.

However, the Saudi Transport Authority had informed the Arab League of the new restrictions’ implications in September 2020, he said.

“The most critical question to ask the Ministry of Transportation is: Have we been aware of the restrictions since September 2020 by the Arab League? Additionally, Customs should have notified the businesses on the same day that they received the details,” Saket said. “From now on, these new restrictions should be implemented gradually, taking into account the high costs that they will entail, particularly given our current economic situation.”

Shbeeb also noted that this decision was made as a precautionary measure, citing the fact that as trucks age, their safety condition diminish, and that there is an “environmental aspect” to the decision as well.

“With our current economic situation in mind, there has been a significant increase in the number of vehicles. Between 2015 and 2021, the number of trucks increased by 50 percent. We used to have 15 thousand trucks, but now we have 23,000 trucks. This reflected poorly on the sector as a whole,” she said.

“It’s time to rethink how we can assist our industry in developing a competitive fleet. We must begin to move forward by expanding the sector and supplying qualified trucks that can compete beyond Jordan’s borders.”

An inside source informed Jordan News that “In 2021, it is projected that the number of semi-trucks will reach 22,000, while the number of trailers will reach 28,000, at a time when the country only needs a total of 13,000 to 14,000 trucks, leaving an excess of approximately 8,000 trucks.”

The problem in the trucking sector began when sole proprietorship started to surpass company ownership, according to the source; individual ownership now accounts for 83 percent of the sector, the source added. The Ministry of Transportation has reduced the number of trucks allowed for companies, from 30 to 5 trucks per company, making it even more difficult to regulate the sector under the dominance of individual ownership.

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