In recent months, highways across the northern province of Hai Duong have become inundated with high-capacity trucks using the roads to detour away from toll collection stations while they barrel through at breakneck speeds.
Truckers aiming to avoid toll collection stations are wreaking havoc on localities across Hai Duong City, the heart and hub of the province.
Traveling through the densely populated neighborhoods at breakneck speeds, the drivers are forced to make sudden sharp turns as they weave through residential areas, thus putting lives of fellow drivers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians at risk.
When the trucks pass by, cars and motorcyclists have to come to a sudden halt in order to avoid getting hit.
Five fatal accidents occurred on 391 Provincial Highway in the first four months of 2016, leaving four area residents dead and a fifth injured. There were no accidents on the road during the same period last year.
To curb the accidents, local authorities have banned trucks from accessing the road during rush hour, but it seems to have been a futile attempt.
Nguyen Van Hieu, 70, residing in Thach Khoi Ward, lamented that the recklessly speeding trucks terrify both children and adults, forcing parents to keep their kids away from playing on the sidewalks.
He added the bedrooms on his second floor have not been used for several months due to the tremors triggered by the rumbling vehicles, leading his entire family to crowd into the living room on the first floor for sleeping space.
“The speeding vans often skid to an abrupt halt at night, causing a ruckus and waking everyone from their sleep,” said Hieu’s wife, who has experienced considerable weight loss due to sleep deprivation brought about by the thunderous trucks.
The number of passing trucks has skyrocketed from a few to a thousand each day since the drivers discovered this alternative route, Hieu observed.
Arteries sustaining the most damage from the increase in trucks include National Highway 38 (the section from National Highway 5 leading to the northern province of Bac Ninh), Provincial Highway 391, October 30 Avenue (in Hai Duong City) and roads No. 206, 179 and 379 in the neighboring province of Hung Yen.
Dang Thi Hoanh, a 56-year-old resident in Hai Tan Ward, complained that the monstrous vehicles have disrupted her family’s life for the past six months.
Meanwhile, locals in La Giang Hamlet in Tu Ky District, where Provincial Highway 391 snakes through, still distinctly remember a tragic accident which killed a pregnant woman, and another in which a tractor trailer was turned upside while trying to bend a sharp curve.
“If not for a large pothole that forced the truck to decelerate, we don’t know what would have happened to houses near the road. An elderly woman got hit and had her leg broken while walking in the street in another incident,” Vu Thi Loan, another resident, said.
Locals also have to leave their doors and windows closed both day and night to avoid dust sent into the air from construction materials that fall off the trucks using the roads.
Their houses are victims of the ‘terror strikers’ that rumble past, with many cracked by constant shaking and noise.
Shops lining the roads, particularly eateries and beverage stalls, have suffered heavily due to the thick layers of dust which re-form shortly after being cleared away.
Vu Thi Thuy, whose ceiling has been riddled with cracks, filed her complaint with the People’s Committee of Hung Thinh Commune in Binh Giang District several months ago but has yet to receive a response.
Vu Ngoc Luan, 70, said he and others have repeatedly lodged grievances at local authorities, to little avail.
In early June 2016, more than 100 outraged inhabitants flocked to National Highway 38 in Cam Giang District and staged a sit-in along the road in an attempt to stop trucks from entering the neighborhood.
They refused to back down until the local government intervened.
A 150-fold surge
According to Nguyen Ta Duan, chief inspector of Hai Duong Province’s Department of Transport, Hai Duong City has seen soaring truck traffic on the Hanoi-Hai Phong direction of National Highway 5, a route used by many drivers to dodge toll collection stations.
Approximately 10 trailer trucks traveled round the clock on Provincial Highway 391 in 2015.
The number has now risen to a staggering 1,500 and the overwhelming lorry volume has also wreaked havoc on the roads.
The Provincial Highway 391 is only designed to withstand 3,000 car arrivals per day and night, yet the artery is now burdened with threefold its designed traffic capacity, or 9,000 car arrivals every 24 hours.
Similarly National Highway 38, which is undergoing repairs, has not fared any better, buckling under the weight of the rocketing traffic volume that is well over its design capacity.
“We’re in no position to ban transport businesses from taking the roads. All that we can do is ensure truck drivers abide by the load limit regulations,” Duan said.
Pham Van Phuong, deputy chair of the provincial People’s Committee, suggested fees on National Highway 5, and Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway should be slashed as a long-term measure to stop large-capacity trucks from intruding on residential neighborhoods.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters’ investigation showed that each large-capacity truck saves around VND400,000 (US$18) each time if it manages to dodge toll collection stations on National Highway 5.
A detour to avoid toll collection stations on Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway can save nearly VND800,000 ($36) each trip.
On April 1, 2016, fees on National Highway 5 were raised by 50 percent, while rates on the Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway saw a 25 percent rise.