DAMMAM – One in three trucks has stopped operating due to a shortage of Saudi truck drivers. The crackdown on undocumented expatriates following the end of the amnesty period has hit the transportation sector.
Saeed Al-Bassami, deputy chairman of the National Transportation Corporation, said around 90 percent of medium-sized transportation vehicles in the Kingdom were plying illegally.
The situation was only marginally better in the heavy vehicle segment since most of these businesses are run by expats.
The heavy vehicles sector has also seen a 100 percent hike in charges for transporting goods from ports to warehouses after the end of the seven-month amnesty, he said.
In the case of transporting goods between cities, price hikes range between 20 percent and 25 percent. “Prices have increased due to the strict verification of drivers’ ID by border security guards who are tasked with ensuring that the name figuring in the document matches with that of the company moving the goods,” he said.
“The crackdown has also resulted in truck drivers parking their vehicles in residential areas for fear of punishment under the new labor laws against undocumented expat workers. Many of these drivers park their vehicles either next to their houses or in front of the owner’s house until they manage to legalize their status,” Al-Bassami said.
Abdulrahman Al-Etaishan, an investor in the transportation sector, said the sector was in a state of stagnation, evident from the number of trucks that are being put up for sale. The situation worsened following the end of the amnesty period, with owners dependent on illegal expats putting up their trucks for sale.
Echoing Al-Bassami’s concern over truck drivers parking their vehicles in residential areas to escape the watchful eyes of the police, he said some families were deprived of their parking slots near their houses because they were blocked by such vehicles.
Some big companies in the private sector were also affected since there are hardly any Saudi driver for transport vehicles, he said.
A source from the General Traffic Directorate in the Eastern Province said traffic inspectors are on the look out for heavy vehicles parked in residential areas. The vehicle owners are liable to be fined between SR100 and SR300. A recurrence of the offense can lead to a prison sentence.
He said that traffic rules ban lorries from entering certain areas during peak hours but that the drivers of certain companies don’t follow the rules, leading to congestion on certain roads in the Eastern Province. “When they are caught, they will have to pay a fine,” he said. ARAB NEWS