THE government has embarked on making efficient use of technology to improve the quality and productivity of public road transport in the country that can respond to the demands of the customers.
The efforts began with the installation of computerised vehicle monitoring system on highway passenger buses to enhance the quality and productivity and above all curb heavy losses of human life through road accidents.
In a separate interview, the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) Director General Mr Gilliard Ngewe and the Tanzania Bus Owners Association (TABOA) Mr Enea Mrutu said the use of technology in enhancing the quality and attractiveness of public road transport is no more an option.
According to Mr Ngewe, to-date 200 highway passenger buses have been installed with the vehicle tracking system since when the project rolledout last year targeting to fix the gadgets to over 1,500 upcountry buses.
The next phase of the project would involve passenger buses plying on short to medium distances. “One of the benefits of computerised vehicle tracking system derives from the better real time control of operations,” said Mr Ngewe, adding that the system is an efficient way of curbing loss of life and property.
The technology refers to a system for improving the supervision and coordination of transportation of highway passenger buses so as to provide reliable and efficient operations.
The system can go as far as to provide information for purposes of route and schedule planning, maintenance management, and operating statistics, and can provide the basic data for real time passenger information services.
However, Mr Ngewe said one of the challenges in implementing the project is the change of mindset of drivers of the highway passengers’ buses some of whom received negatively the tracking system. He said the regulator is very keen in ensuring that bus drivers and owners adhere to the new system.
Tanzania has been incurring heavy losses of its manpower due to recurring road carnage resulting to deaths, injuries, disabilities and loss of property with road accidents being the major contributor accounting for almost 70 per cent.
The existing measures to limit over-speeding has not shown major contribution to the road safety as there are only countable inspection points with speed radar guns as a way to limit over-speeding. There is no doubt that there is need to improve the quality and attractiveness of public road transport services.
For an existing service, there are basically two ways that this can be accomplished. One is to provide better vehicles and facilities and the other is through improved operations.
In the last two decades the main emphasis with respect to bus services has been to improve the fleet, and today’s bus fleets are undoubtedly far superior to their predecessors’ air conditioning, advanced suspensions, and attractive interiors now being commonplace. However, relatively little has been done to improve the operations of bus systems, primarily because the technology to do so was not available.
The use of public streets and the difficulty of controlling vehicle movements thereon did not permit the use of sophisticated monitoring and control systems like those of rail transit, for example.
As the name vehicle track system suggests, essential components of the system include an element which can track vehicle location in real time and an element which provides direct digital data and often voice communication between each vehicle and the dispatcher.
In addition, the computer system manages and processes the data in real time to assist the dispatcher in better controlling bus operations.
Also, the enhanced information on the location of buses can be used to provide very reliable information to passengers regarding expected bus arrival times, via message signs at bus stops or via telephone.
Also, the information can then be used by dispatchers to anticipate problems or monitor problem situations as they occur such as buses becoming overcrowded or beginning to fall behind schedule.