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The Relative Costs Of Road Safety In Kenya
Should Not Be An Issue Or Even Discussed 

Coastweek -- Monday of this week saw a national strike – well almost – called by matatu associations who took action by asking their members to remove their vehicles from the roads in response to a declaration by the government that they would be enforcing the Michuki Rules as well as the National Transport and Safety Authority Act, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

Also to be enforced was the basic Traffic Act and all its attendant appendices.

By the evening, the matatu associations had held meetings with the relevant government agencies and agreed to return to work with immediate effect and – to the surprise of most Kenyans – they apologised for the inconvenience they had caused the public.

Whether this was from the bottom of the heart or simply a damage limitation exercise remains to be seen.

The reality during the day was that wananchi did not loudly protest at the action taken by the government.

If truth be told, the apparent attitude by the public was – about time!!

Most of the users of matatus have been suffering silently especially since they had supported the original implementation of the Michuki Rules by walking to work for several days as the matatus then went on strike.

Life on matatus improved when the Rules were implemented and then enforced.

The Minister who followed Michuki was lackadaisical about the continued enforcement of the rules and the next government Minister who followed in fact decided that they were not to be enforced – almost creating a situation where obeying the Rules and indeed the Traffic Act was an optional extra!! 

The leadership failed the public and the matatu users in this.

The industry subsequently relapsed into what we see today with additional impunity coming in as the stealthy finger of corruption slowly wove its way into the fabric of how matatus operate.

It must have quickly become apparent to the Federation of Public Transport Owners (FPTO) that this Monday’s strike was not going to work hence they quickly adjusted course and then agreed to dialogue with the authorities with their vehicles on the road rather than off the road like happened with the initial strike when the Rules were introduced.

The one thing that struck me about the reality today was that we now have a Federation.

Before one used to hear only about the Matatu Owners Association and the Matatu Welfare Association.

We now have several more that have come to form the Federation – the Matatu Transport Vehicle Association, the Association of Bus Operators Kenya, Mount Kenya Matatu Operators Association and the Association of Matatu Operators.

I am sure that there are many more out there but the proliferation means that the business must be booming.

It also means that the issues that have to be tackled must have also “boomed” by a similar amount in the intervening period.

So why is it that the FPTO are taking to strike action?

After all, the issue here is about having the right hardware to operate safely.

The fact they even decided to even take strike action is a worry.

In my mind, it shows that the leadership of the organisations and the FPTO are not wired to consider the customer.

Their key driver is profitability for their membership at any cost.

The passenger is a mere pawn in the game and is treated just like the matatu – make a minimum investment and maximise the return.

The requirements being enforced are straight forward and are a no brainer.

The authorities require that the vehicle has an inspection certificate which will have been issued for meeting a basic set of statutory requirements.

The vehicle should have a speed governor, be fitted with safety belts, be in good mechanical condition and have good tyres.

The agencies will also inspect to ensure that the vehicle does not have blinking lights, bull bars, extended rims and a running board.

They also look for modified exhaust systems, tinted or reflective material, loud music systems, blaring horns as well as ensuring that the vehicles have the appropriate insurance.

The other enforcement issue is about the “hardware” of the people operating vehicle.

The driver is required to have a valid driving license, wear prescribe uniform and have a PSV badge with a photo.

They should also not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs – legal or otherwise.

The same applies to the conductor of the vehicle.

The driver and conductor are both liable to action should the vehicle be overloaded or carrying excess passengers.

They should also ensure that their body parts stay within the confines of the vehicle unless they are making specific signals.

They must obey the traffic signs and the follow the Traffic Act and touting is not allowed – passengers should choose what vehicle they get in to.

Passengers are also expected to help in their own safety by wearing the seat belts provided.

So why should complying with these simple rules cause the leadership of the public transport owners and operators to create such a stink?

Why would they protest at common sense?

Has the matatu sense of impunity trickled its way from the grass roots (drivers) to the leadership or are we seeing a case where this has always been the reality – that the bad behaviour of the matatu industry is actually led from the top?

Whatever the case, it is time that the leadership of the FPTO and all its member associations and the matatu SACCOs take responsibility of their sector and apply the rules themselves rather than complain about being policed.

Cost of safety should not be an issue or even discussed.

The numbers that can be syndicated by the various organisations and SACCOs which means that cost of purchasing the requisite hardware can be brought down to manageable levels that does not burden the business.

As Kachumbari says, the Michuki Rules rule again.

 

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