The recent hostage taking and threats against Jordanian
truck drivers entering Iraq is severely damaging the country’s trucking and
distribution sector with some analysts estimating thousands of people’s
livelihoods are at risk, according to a report by the Jordan Times.
“Jordanian truck drivers are restricted to charging certain
prices by the Ministry of Transport and are fined if they undercut or
overcharge. Iraqi truck drivers have no such restraints at the moment, so even
if Jordanians wanted to make the drive to Baghdad, they wouldn't be able to
compete,” said Marwan Bitar, chairman of Amman Swards Transport Service and
manager of one Jordanian trucking company.
Bitar said he recently wanted to transport 100,000 tons of
fertilizer to Iraq. While Jordanian drivers must charge $28 per ton, Iraqi
drivers would take the load for $19, Bitar said.
Moreover, Iraqi truck drivers’ lack of overhead also helps
them undercut their Jordanian counterparts.
“I have been told by Iraqi officials that most of the
truckers are driving stolen vehicles,” Bitar said “They had been working for
the state-owned company, and when the government fell they simply took their
trucks home. Nothing has been done to get them back and they now have a
stranglehold on the market.”
While essential supplies still make it into Iraq, many
companies hold off shipping any items that are not urgently required.
“There is no insurance available and we can make absolutely
no guarantee that deliveries will arrive. We are relying entirely on the
drivers who could be risking their lives. It’s not a situation that we’re at
all happy with,” said Ibrahim Naouri, managing director of shipper Naouri
Group. “We're only using Iraqi drivers now, because they will make the trip and
because they are around $100 cheaper per truck.”
Meanwhile, exporters are reluctant to ship U.S.-bound loads,
citing the increased risk of attack.