Monthly Archives: January 2018

Manage your Matatu with ease.

The biggest obstacle affecting Matatu business venture today is routes and vehicles management. This involves the regulators i.e NTSA & traffic police, Sacco’s / transport management companies and individual vehicle owners. The reason why Matatu business has become one of the most risky investments so far has everything to do with the three regulators for failing to come up with sustainable ways of Addressing comprehensively’ issues affecting the industry.

The government institutions (NTSA and the police) must first of all take it as a crucial responsibility to protect citizens from unnecessary deaths and injuries caused by road accidents. One way of doing this is by ensuring that only qualified and competent drivers are allowed on the roads. The failure by this two main regulators has trickles down to Sacco managements especially town service routes, where we have seen companies operating without ‘ Codes of conducts thus, no internal mechanism for disciplining employees (drivers and conductors).

This has greatly affected routes management, forcing individual vehicles owners to incur extra costs by hiring workers privately( at their own term) and additional managers to monitor their fleet. Most of the current Existing saccos are just but cartels only being useful when renewing Road Service license (RSL) or paying parking fee. Vehicle owners have been left to deal with the police, pay court fines or bailout drivers even when they are caught breaking traffic rules, abide by the terms set by stage managers and even allow his/her vehicle to be driven by “others” and still paying compulsory daily Management fee and other hidden charges to Sacco’s where they are members.

But this is not to mean that there are no solutions: viable solutions based on facts that have been tested and proven.

For the last 3 years, I’ve been working with a team of economics researchers from a US universities who have been in the country researching on public transport and road safety in Kenya. “I’m only allowed to share what is in the public domain, so probably the ministry can somehow get access to the full report”.During the said period, the team conducted intensive research ‘using various modern technology, gadgets and scientific investigations’ and the findings might perhaps set the basis to finding a lasting solution to reducing road carnage especially in the Matatu sector.

Accidents and the aftermath, has left many investors, drivers, passengers and other motorists counting losses, handicapped, indebted, hospitalised and others doing time in jail. None of the said misfortunes can be said to be of lesser consequences, for at the end of the day, it affects all of us but in different ways.

During our research that covered over 250 town service vehicles operating in Thika, kiambu, kajiado, kibra , south B, Banana and Dandora, the team was able to track all movements, speed, off-road and off-route driving, acceleration rate, vehicle location at all times and ignition details, driving behaviours among others.

For three years, the team monitored and relayed the findings of the investigations/research to participating owners and drivers alike and what came forth could be the breakthrough in creating a sustainable management structure that can be adopted by Matatu saccos to improve safety and proper fleet management.

For many would-be investors, the transport industry appears to present a business mode that has guaranteed returns judging by the demand for this services across the country. But for the insiders (those already in the business), this is not the case. Majority are suffering in silence, straggling to pay back loans to lenders, keeping the vehicle on the road, borrowing to a point where they are forced to source financing from other ventures to pay instalments or risk loosing their vehicles to auctioneers. This can be attributed to hidden pitfalls and lack of reliable guidelines in the management of matatu saccos.

Lack of credible data/information concerning the day to day running of Matatu business is one of the reasons we see many failing to get good returns from the transport market. By credible data, I want to emphasise on the five areas that are most important in ensuring smooth running of this entities.

1- The condition of the vehicles

2- Maintenance record

3- Driving pattern or behaviours

4- Accounting and

5-legal requirements.

Poorly maintained and un-roadworthy vehicles are a major contributor to road accidents and low returns in Matatu business. Brake failures, tire burst, poor suspension, poor vision (lights,mirrors and screens) and other factors that are considered lesser and are mostly overlooked contribute to most of the road clashes. A stalled motor vehicle on the middle of a busy road is a danger to other road users and this is mostly a result of poor maintainance. Although some of the accidents might not be fatal or injury causing, they still require money and time if repairs are needed.

One thing I noted from the research is that: most of the vehicles that were not in very good condition during the installation of the tracking devices had the most breakdowns and we’re spending more time at the garage especially during the normal working hours and recorded very low income to both the crew and the owner and replaced drivers very often compared to those which were in good condition at installation despite belonging /operating on the same route.

A well maintained vehicle is not determined by passing the mandatory government inspection test conducted by NTSA. ..A very big NOT.. This could be, and is supposed to be the case, but corruption by officers in this institution has seen many unroadworthy vehicles getting legal NB. legal not illegal licenses to operate. On the contrary a vehicle in good condition has to have the following–

A- Good working brake system

B- Good suspension that ensures stability of the vehicle

C- Well treaded tyres / not worn- out

D- functioning speed regulator/ governor

E- Recommended seats, windows and mirrors

F- Properly insured.

It is the duty of any willing investor who is determined to succeed in public transport to make sure that the vehicle they are bringing on the road meets the above.

Once the vehicle is in good condition, the next step is to start keeping a record for any expenses that goes toward maintaining the vehicle in that condition. Income and expenses

This must include parts replacement, dates and mileage for normal servicing ( oil change, brake pads/ linings, greasing, transmission fluids etc). To enable you to get factual/ credible figures on wear and tear, you’ll be required to find a way of calculating distance covered in a specific period. You can do this manually by noting down the odometer readings before the start of every working day and deducting the kilometers covered from the reading at the close of business: This will enable the owner monitor expenses and can easily tell if the business is making profit or loses. Alternatively, you can install a tracking device and get all this information on your Android phone or a computer.

Matatu owners must fill the void created by the regulators by ensuring proper and documented management of their vehicles and the behaviours of their employees on the roads to avoid making heavy losses. Also, they must be in touch with the day to day running of their business and not leave everything to Sacco’s and or management companies. At the end, it is the owner who suffers the most since most of this Sacco’s don’t own any of the fleet they manage.

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Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Its life, matatu investment, Matatu matters


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Will there ever be a solution to Nairobi’s traffic jam?

There are solutions but they will require a lot of cooperation by concerned institutions. The objective should be to reduce traffic and not accommodate traffic. A reduction of traffic brings with it added positives – cleaner air, less noise, less stress-related disorders etc etc.
Promoting public transport is a necessary tool for achieving a reduction in traffic. The Government must spend its money incentivizing travel by public transport, increasing inter-connectivity of the various modes of public transport, increasing the number of trips, making them safe and “attractive” to every strata of society.

When it is not safe for people to walk even over short distances, they result to using public transport. Many trips over these distances are undertaken by vehicles not as a choice but by force of circumstance.

The largely avoidable use of vehicles for short-distance trips, which account for a significant proportion of all urban trips increases congestion, energy consumption and emissions, and renders walking, cycling, and public transit even more unviable. In short, planning for vehicles to the exclusion of other modes leads to even more motor vehicle activity and impacts.
We need to find a way of improving public transport services. We can do this if we make it sustainable and dependable.
If we build infrastructures that accommodate public service vehicles needs like bus stops, special lines for public service vehicles and easy access to bus stations, I believe we can make public transport a preferred and cheaper mode of mass transport.
The county governments of Nairobi can save taxpayers millions of shillings wasted in fuel, parking fee and medical care if they can use some of the large unutilized spaces within the CBD. Come up with A new plan, relocate some institutions and buildings to pave way for modern bus stations and build extra lanes for buses and Matatu in general.

 For instance, Kenya Railways occupies a large portion of unutilized/idle land: from Muthurwa all the way to Nairobi railways club on Ngong Road. The land extends to Uhuru highway near Nyayo stadium round about. On the Jogoo road side, we have Muthurwa bus park- but the access roads are poorly designed and never maintained.
 With proper planning, this land can provide link roads for PSVs to get to the city and to bus stations; we can absorb all matatus coming from Industry-area, Mombasa road- Langata Road- Ngong Road- Enterprise Road and Jogoo Road in to the train station; without interfering with the CBD.

.= The Ministry of transport must ensure that infrastructure and facilities for pedestrians (and cyclists) are incorporated as an essential component of all urban transport projects. Doing so would minimize the need for, and curb rapid growth in, motor vehicle activity, enhance the effectiveness of public transit and help achieve an urban transport system that is safe, cost-effective and that benefits all, including vehicle users.
= What is required for the core city is a comprehensive mobility plan which should be a combination of roads, public transport system, parking space, and pedestrians walk paths and introduction of alternative transport systems.
= Also, we need to come up with new training programs for drivers to educate them on driving skills and traffic regulations. Failure to observe traffic laws – over lapping- blocking exits/ entrances contribute to the congestion.
With the introduction of speed limiters/governors, we have seen fewer accidents and less fatal injuries in PSV sector; but the numbers have increased for non motorized road users. Groups such as young children, the elderly, the disabled, and the urban poor, who often have no choice but to walk or cycle, are particularly disadvantaged and at serious risk of being hurt or killed in accidents. Lack of pedestrian accessibility affects all, since everyone, including vehicle users, is a pedestrian at some point.

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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in Matatu matters

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