Monthly Archives: April 2012

Accidents and the raising cost of fuel affecting the matatu industry.

It has been a very tough week for our industry; the fuel prices has hit the roofs again; we were just starting to get friendly with our customers and now we have to change the tone to hike fares. I thought the discovery of oil was good news; well I guess that will take time. Or alternatively why not move our forces from Somalia and take them to South Sudan? We helped them gain independence why not go the whole nine yards? They have enough oil to pay for our services.That’s just my thoughts.

Let’s talk about the important things first – Due to a poor judgment caused by one of our own- more than five lives were lost on Thika Rd. earlier in the week,,,. We extend our condolences to the families who lost family members and to all those affected by the accident that involved a matatu and a truck belonging to the road construction company. Nothing can bring back that which has departed only accepting that death has taken away our loved ones will help us move on.

What happened there was human error which we can only find its root in the lack of proper channel to manage and run the Matatu business. It will not help if police put up road blocks tomorrow and impound all matatus, this problem has deeper roots and affect the industry like a virus does to a body. There is more of those drivers; where the one who rammed into a stationary truck came from. I have tried to brow this whistles hoping somebody in authority who has the power to do something will act but nobody has come up with anything physical. I still maintain that re-training matatu drivers is the best option.

I was reading an article last Sunday by one journalist.;;. He had related driving behaviors of Nairobi motorists and their likeliness to cause accidents. He did not put the blame on anybody in particular for causing the accidents but nevertheless pitched inexperienced saloon cars owners against the experienced matatu drivers and showed the reason we always beat them when it comes to quick thinking and avoiding accidents.

One thing we all ought to consider before throwing the first stone to matatu drivers is how many we are; how many people we transport to and from work; how many hours we spend on the road; what percentage is involved in accidents and how often. I know people who trained me to become a matatu driver more than ten years ago and they are still active and accident free. I have personally been behind the wheel for those ten years and never been to a hospital or a police station because of an accident. I’m not saying that any driver is too good for accidents but the fact is; how you act and react makes all the difference.

I spend most of my time on the road and there is not one single day that I go home without having done something to avoid a- would have been accident. I don’t sit on the horns when a motorist makes a mistake that requires me to do stunts to save my car and my precious cargo; I hold no grudge for traffic blunders; many people pretend to be following traffic rules and cause un-neccesally accidents that could have been avoided. How do you wait for an oncoming vehicle to hit you heads-on because you are on your line?

Road accident can affect anybody whether highly trained like the late Princess Diana’s driver or a street trained matatu driver; what every driver needs do is to play safe in his corner and hope the other does the same. The drivers responsibility is to ensure the car is in good working condition and well maintained; a bust tyre; failed brakes; un-functioning warning lights; stationary vehicles on the road and unmarked roads are the major causes of accidents in Kenya and I believe in most developing countries. If the drivers were doing their jobs, these are avoidable accidents.

Back to the petro prices issue; did you know that the bigger the bus the bigger the engine? Well let me give you a simple business fact. A Toyota fourteen seater matatu consumes fuel worth 500-600 Ksh per return trip to Ongata Rongai, a bus requires 1500 kshs and above for the same distance. A bus will carry 51passengers while a Toyota will make three trips carrying a total of 45 passengers with the same amount of fuel. Chances are, the Toyota will charge more and make more profit. A bus will make four trips for a day’s work and make an average total total collection of 18,000 Ksh: A Toyota will do 10—12 trips and make a collection of 14000 Ksh and above in medium traffic. To drive my business point home, one bus costs enough money to buy Six Toyota fourteen seaters. Which one would you invest in?

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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Matatu matters



After Easter; It’s back to reality.

I thought it’s Mondays I hate; but I guess Monday blues- have nothing to do with Mondays. It’s the first day after holidays that make the first day at work seem longer than all the others. If it was not for my wife, I would still be rolling in bed finishing my dream. I didn’t even hear her leave the bed; leave alone make coffee. Anyway; I’m already awake and out of the bed; why not go to work?

I had a wonderful time in the shags with my parents not forgetting I have spent every dime I had reserved for the Easter celebrations with my kids in the village. Going to work is not an option; it’s time to recover. But luckily the kids are home for the holidays. My mother wanted me to leave them in the village but this thing with education nowadays!!!? They are only home for a week; they have to resume for tuition next week.It was not like that when I was in primary. When schools closed, that was the end of books; we would stay home for a day or two and then mum would park our bags and transport us to Kiambu kwa Cucu. My grandmother had a very big coffee plantation and she always looked forward to those extra hands to help picking coffee. All my cousins would also be there; about seven of us.  It was picking coffee and playing games; and in the evenings, my grandmother would tell us stories about Mau-Mau and the white colonial settlers who she blamed for killing my grandfather. She would allow us to take tea which was out of question in our respective home; we would wet the beds and then carry our mattresses and spread them in the sun to dry the following day.

I wish my sons would get an opportunity like that and get out of the house for a change; this Computer games only makes them lazy and soft. How about forming gangs and challenging other gangs from other villages and fighting it out in some streets. I bet that is illegal today. I have bought all cartoons {pirated of course} Kiliku, Ben-10, Tom & Jerry, NSF Most wanted; and others I can’t remember their names. Well time changes and so do people.

It is 5:30 when I finally leave the house, that cup of coffee always does the magic; the Toyota matatu is not in the parking; the conductor must have gone to get passengers. I wish he does that every day to save me the hustle of checking water and oil, although I prefer doing it myself. The brake fluid needed topping up the last time I checked. The rush hour has just began and the price is right-“ Wambururu kalia Ndai iko sawa” the conductors tells me as we exchange positions, he is carrying excess passengers but it’s okay, there is no cop on the road at this hour. I’m still concerned about the brakes but the pedal assures me everything is okay. I have missed the sound of this work horse. I don’t need to tune music so I have one trip to listen to the 5L engine push the load. The owner must have serviced the vehicle over the long weekend. The passenger in the front seat next to me has smelly shoes and the heat from the engine is not doing him or us much justice. I hate smelly shoes, so I have to drive with my window opened; How do you put on the same socks two days in a-row that is not even good for your own feet. But I guess that’s none of my business; he is a fare paying passenger and has the right to sit wherever he wants. The guy in the corner is back in the dreamland, he must have missed his cup of coffee; or may be his wife doesn’t care or he is not married.

I love driving early in the morning as there is no traffic jams at this hour. I’m back where I started in less than an hour, but the story is different this time round; there are passengers everywhere, I don’t have to go all the way to Tuskys main stage to fill the car; “Nyonga hapo” my conductor shouts hitting the roof of the car. I do as he wants and in less than five minutes, he is hitting the roof again- “Twenda na hio itha”. It’s some minutes to seven- the traffic jam has already started. I hate this trip as breaking traffic rules is un-avoidable. I can’t drive behind people going to work while I have already started mine. Kenyans have no respect for their cars; I bet the only thing they don’t do in cars is bath. I watch them in the morning traffic combing hair, shaving beards, taking breakfast and even fighting. They have all the time to do all those stuff and even throw some insult to a matatu driver. But I’m used to them; insults don’t stick in the body. My conductor gives them the finger salute but I can’t do that; I’m too civilized for that. I have a better way of making them feel the itch. I will flash them my head lights on my return trip even before they have done ten kilometers on the jam and watch their wife’s point at me probably telling them to let them take the matatu the next time.

The third trip starts around 9:30 and this is the one that determines how the day will end. All the cops are in their respective spots, no excess passengers and no overlapping; it’s time to be in uniform and hang a badge- safety belt locked, a portrait hanging in the windscreen and follow the right lane. It will take forever to beat this jam, but its better I obey the rules today; I need something on top of my pay. The fewer bribes I give the better chances I have. The passengers at this hour don’t care when you get them to their destination as majority are not going to work. Maina Kageni and Joseph king’ang’i  are doing the entertaining for me with the morning show on classic FM.

It’s the same routine every day for a matatu driver and I’m already bored by early afternoon; sometimes I wish somebody will just hire me to take them somewhere else. But not today; private hire has a fixed income, and the owner has the figures; that does not go well if you want some extra pocket money. I have enough for the owner and half the fuel I have used; two more trips and I will be done with the expenses. No cop has touched a dime today and I bet it will end that way. Today is my lucky day- what with all the blessing my mother poured on me?

I skipped lunch to make an extra trip, the owner does not have to know about this- the bible says a donkey does not have to be muzzled when treading on the corn. Well; this is where I tread corn and since I’m just a casual in this job. Every cent counts.

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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Matatu matters



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