Intermediate Equipment

Economically emerging and developing countries (EDCs) vary enormously in their economic, resource, industrial, service sector and social circumstances. This suggests that the technologies and methods used for road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance should also vary and be appropriate for their individual circumstances. Unfortunately it is not always immediately obvious that the “state-of-the-art” technologies widely used in developed countries and taught in their academic and training institutions are often not appropriate, economic nor sustainable in most situations in many other countries. What is required is an Appropriate Technology and Management approach.

While heavy plant may be appropriate for some large road construction and rehabilitation projects where the huge investment may be justified, for most road works, and particularly maintenance, Intermediate Equipment, and especially tractor technology can offer a capable, cheaper and more flexible investment which is better suited to the situation of emerging and developing countries and their local contractors.

Economically emerging and developing countries (EDCs) are usually characterised by a resource base that is very different from that found in economically developed countries. For example in developed countries labour wage rates are typically in the range of US$50 to 200 per day equivalent, or more. In comparison, EDCs may have abundant low cost and under-utilised labour (wages often less than US$5/day equivalent), particularly in the rural areas. The other important key resource for road works: credit finance, is usually more difficult to obtain and is usually far more expensive in EDCs. For example, even if credit is available for contractors, it is usually at annual interest rates at multiples of those available to developed country enterprises. Furthermore DECs have local traditions and procedures, and a fledgling or intermediate-technology industrial and service sector basewhich are substantially different from the industrialised countries. It makes economic and management sense to seek an optimal use of these lower cost, locally available resources, including local skills and traditions before resorting to importing expensive (and often extremely problematic) heavy equipment and expertise on a large scale.

Agricultural tractors and a wide range of attachments, and locally made small trucks are well established examples of intermediate equipment providing cost effective road works and other sector equipment solutions.

Heavy construction plant will still continue to be justifiable on many large, paved main road, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects where the factors of high road traffic, high technical specifications, high guaranteed plant utilisation, economies of scale, intensive management, rapid implementation and relatively simple logistics can support a large-contractor, capital-intensive approach. However for most other road works the use of intermediate equipment and labour is often cheaper and more appropriate. There are also strong political and social arguments for adopting a more local-resource orientated approach.

Many problems and high costs encountered in the road sector in EDCs can be attributed to the application of inappropriate technology, as well as problems of inadequate policy guidance, insufficient funding, inadequate institutional arrangements and vague responsibilities, poor manpower development and motivation, and inadequate decision making arrangements.


Updated April 2010