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Truck rules spur massive backup at major Brazilian port

A new ordinance that prohibits trucks from parking at Brazil’s main Santos port at night caused what may be the worst traffic jam of a busy season on Tuesday, slowing delivery of the country’s record soybean crop.

Lines of parked trucks extended as much as 50 km on the Anchieta highway leading to the Santos coast, according to highway operator EcoVias. Congestion was later reduced after lanes for return traffic were reversed, but afternoon rains made for slow passage.

The new regulations took effect on Monday and were meant to pressure authorities to find a solution for the massive number of trucks that have been bothering nearby residents for months as Brazil exports record amounts of soy, sugar and corn.

But Tuesday’s chaos on the highways was enough to persuade the municipality of Cubatao to suspend temporarily the ordinance limiting the hours for truck parking and search for another solution.

With holding areas for trucks closed on Monday night, vehicles had no other option than to wait on the roads for a chance to unload at Santos.

That left thousands of drivers milling around on the highway on Tuesday, truck doors left open, while commuters from nearby Sao Paulo found themselves stuck for hours.

Few terminals in Brazil are covered, and rain showers in recent days have shut down ship loading, adding to the number of trucks on the roads and slowing traffic.

Ship wait times at Brazilian ports, which soared to longer than two months this season, are mostly due to difficulty getting bulk commodities to port, not to actual port capacity, executives from Danish shipping company Maersk Line said on Monday.

Due to paltry investment in the country’s rail and waterways, Brazil is overwhelmingly reliant on trucks for transport. As much as two-thirds of Brazil’s new investments in the first quarter were likely related to construction of heavy trucks.

— Reporting for Reuters by Laiz de Souza in Sao Paulo and Brian Winter in Santos; writing by Caroline Stauffer.

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