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Passengers stranded as new matatu laws take effect

By By Cyrus Ombati | April 1st 2014
Hundreds stranded as new matau laws take effect [Photo: Courtesy]

By Cyrus Ombati

Kenya: Only a handful of matatus were on the roads across the country on Tuesday morning as the new tough rules aimed at reducing road carnage and streamline public transport came into effect.

By Monday, about 7,000 matatus out of the 100,000 had been approved by the motor vehicle inspection unit to operate countrywide.

Matatu operators had announced they would start their strike Tuesday to protest the introduction of the rules. This was after a court declined to stop the coming to effect of the laws.

The strike by matatus that had not complied with the rules affected thousands of commuters who had jammed to various bus stops ready for their duties.

Some of the commuters rushed to train stations to connect to their destinations as others sought to be ferried by private motorists.

Some of those who were affected used social media to update their status saying they were stranded.

Traffic commandant Charlton Mureithi said preliminary findings had shown most matatus had opted to be away.

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“We will implement the laws as required but we can see many of them are off the roads,” said Mureithi.

Director of Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit Jared Wangai blamed the operators saying although they had been given enough time to ensure their vehicles had complied with the new rules, most of them had waited until the last minute rush for compliance.

He said some of the vehicles had fitted old model speed governors, which prompted his officers to turn them away.

 The situation looked is bad as Wangai revealed only two matatus had, for instance, in Garissa Town, been approved to operate.

“Our work is only to ensure that the new speed governors that are fitted to the all PSVs comply with the set standards. We do not care where they will get the digital speed governors but it has to be the one which has been recommended,” said Wangai.

The rules come into effect as schools close for the holidays and workers in towns start travelling upcountry for Easter.

Among others, under the new rules introduced by the National Transport and Safety Authority, all public service vehicles must belong to a Sacco that has at least 30 vehicles.

It is upon each Sacco to give the safety authority a list of all their employees and submit a report showing how many of its vehicles were involved in road crashes and what was done about them on a monthly basis.

Saccos on long distance routes which is above 50 kilometers away from any start of the journey must have a fleet management system and data from it must be stored for at least six months.

The operators are also supposed to subscribe to an accident and emergency mutual aid system.

From July 1, all PSVs will be required to operate a cashless fare system and ensure passengers are issued with tickets or receipts for fare paid for.

A system operated by Equity Bank is already being used by some vehicles in Nairobi.

PSVs, which will be on the roads overnight, will be required to hire two drivers for every vehicle and each driver must not work more than eight hours.

The operators will also be required to file quarterly reports on accidents which will include the number and nature of passenger complaints and how they were resolved, the number of vehicles added to or removed from the list of those run by the Sacco and the names of drivers who have been hired or fired within that period.

Those who do not comply risk a year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to Sh50,000.  Out of that, the authority may cancel or withdraw the license of the PSV in question.

It will also be compulsory for the Saccos to give drivers annual leave.

There are 439 Saccos that have been vetted and approved in the country ahead of the implementation of the rules.

“The government did not ban night travel. It only set conditions, which must be complied with before they are cleared to conduct their business at night. I am glad that a few companies are almost meeting the conditions,” said transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau.

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