Business Day - Motor News
Green shoots of positivity for minibus taxi safety
The taxi industry, perhaps the peskiest of albatrosses around any transport minister’s neck, is still plagued by strikes, road carnage, violence and much more. Yet the minibus taxi business is SA’s most widely used and preferred mode of transport, accounting for more than 68% of the daily commuting by an estimated 15million passengers a day.
The sector remains contentious with no clue of when or how all its trials and tribulations will be resolved; however, there are green shoots of positivity.
After a year-long hiatus the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (TRP) was reintroduced in August 2019. The programme will be rolled out across all nine provinces and taxi owners with vehicles bought before the stipulated cutoff date of 2007 can bring in these old vehicles to be scrapped in exchange for a R125,000 cash payment.
Government and other stakeholders hope this move will help lessen taxi-related carnage on the roads, partly attributed to unsafe cars.
It’s a commendable pursuit but it isn’t the full circle solution required, with foibles such as unlicensed drivers and reckless driving mindsets, which can set it all back.
The government says that it has identified and aims to eliminate 135,894 old taxis, of which 1,464 applications are said to have been received and processed. The process of scrapping 1,000 illegally converted panel vans has also begun.
However, there are still one or two barriers to the successful implementation of TRP. The TRP dictates an up-to-date taxi permit is a standard requirement for a vehicle to qualify for the recapitalisation programme, but many of the vehicles that qualify don’t have permits.
Many a taxi owner who has paid off their taxi transfers existing permits of older taxis to newer vehicles, leaving the old “skorokoros” to continue operating, mostly fraudulently. A logbook is also required to satisfy the conditions of scrapping while a vehicle still servicing finance agreements is also exempted from the process.
The lengthy time it takes to process the scrap into cash in the bank is yet another deterrent. Many of the owners who initially handed over their vehicles for scrapping complained of long periods spent without their primary income generators.
However, reports suggest there is a marked improvement from government on this aspect and it adds to some of the optimistic developments thus far.
Tyre maker Bridgestone, taxi finance provider SA Taxi and the South African National Taxi Council, which represents about 1,200 taxi federations nationwide, came together this week to offer a new, bespoke tyre designed with local operational conditions in mind.
The new tyre is aimed at lessening road accidents that emanate from tyre-related issues which is said to account for about 20% of all taxi-related road collisions.
This deal means a higher quality tyre, normally targeted at premium customers, will be available at a more affordable price. The new 613V 195/R15C tyre will be branded as the Bridgestone Taxi R15 and its prominent feature is the R1,322 price which undercuts the R1,700 Bridgestone alternative preferred by taxi operators.
There’s a rewards programme associated with the purchase of the branded tyre where operators will be able to save R400 per tyre and earn rewards on parts, maintenance and fuel. The robustly built tyre is said to have low rolling resistance which reduces fuel consumption, translating to more cost savings in the long run.
This tyre will also become original-equipment fitment to new minibuses financed by SA Taxi and will be sold as a replacement tyre through SupaQuick tyre fitment centres.