PSV operators forced into cargo business to survive
Public service vehicles (PSVs) have been forced to transform their passenger buses into cargo transportation entities to generate revenue.
The unfolding phenomenon has also forced the country’s major passenger airlines’ operators to go the same route to survive.
This is as the deadly Covid-19 pandemic takes stranglehold on human movement which continues to adversely affect the entire transport sector in the country and across its borders.
The country’s major long-distance, cross-country and cross-border passenger buses have also embraced cargo transportation as cessation of movement bites into their bottomline.
Twelve to 18-seater matatus have not been left behind as they struggle to keep afloat. Immediately the government announced cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale just before the Easter holidays, passenger buses and matatus had to innovate to survive. Cancelled bookings were the order of the day.
Kenya Public Transporters Association (KPTA) chairman John Wang’oo said: “Traditionally all our passenger buses also carry unaccompanied cargo to be delivered to our members’ booking offices all over the country and beyond.”
Wang’oo said recipients’ or addresses of the cargo have to produce their national identification cards, passports or driving licences to retrieve their cargoes at designated destination points which are also points of origin for other onward transit cargo.
Most of the long-distance public transport bus companies, he added, were grounded with cessation of human movement, carrying huge quantities of cargo that was meant to reach their various destinations within at least 24 hours within and to neighbouring countries’ destinations.
“The end result was that we had to convert some of the grounded passenger buses into cargo transporters not only to generate revenue but also deliver goods to our customers,” Wang’oo said.
Most cargo transporters frequent Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, Voi, Mtito Andei…Nairobi, Naivasha, Gilgil, Nakuru, Molo, Mau Summit, Eldoret, Webuye, Turbo, Bungoma, Kitale, Malaba on the Kenya – Uganda border and beyond.
Others are Kericho, Sotik, Kisii, Nyamira, Kisumu, Kakamega, Majengo, Luanda, Ugunja, Sega, Bumala, Port Victoria…Busia also on the Kenya – Uganda border and beyond into neighbouring countries.
We established that some of the major leading cross-country and cross-border PSV buses that have taken to cargo transportation include Coast Bus Company, Mash Poa, Oxygen, Simba Coach, Dreamliner, TSS, Coast Modern, Tahmeed, Easy Coach, Crown Coach, Transline, the Guardian Angel among many others.
“With the cessation of movement, we lost a lot of revenue and continue losing everyday as some of our buses remain grounded.
When we get enough cargo to fill our cavernous boots and empty passenger seats then we are on the road to deliver them to their destinations,” said Coast Bus senior transport manager Ali Hassan.
He said the practice was worsened by the mandatory social distancing of not less than one metre in all PSV vehicles, which means fewer passengers on every coach and lesser revenue paid in fares.
As of yesterday the country had 2,216 cases of Covid-19. The government has adopted a number of containment measures, including social distancing and closure of most non-essential social spaces to gatherings and encouraging teleworking where possible.
It also imposed international flights (with the exception of cargo flights), a 14-day quarantine for those recently returning from abroad; establishment of isolation facilities; and limitations on public transportation passenger capacity.
To adhere to the social distancing directive, the 14-seater matatus were directed to carry eight passengers, those with a 25-seater capacity to reduce to 15 passengers while those above a 30-seater capacity were directed to maintain a capacity of 60 per cent per trip.
“The public transport sector is now on its knees with the directive to stay at home. To add insult to injury the curfew has made it worse,” Kimutai said.