The introduction of a new registration system by officials at the Federal Transport Authority has sent freight truck operators into an uproar, claiming the requirements are cumbersome.

The new requirements are not in line with the directive used by the Authority to govern cross-border transportation, operators protest. The latest registration process began after  authorities drafted a new directive last year, hoping to align their policies with digitisation. They want to see a change in how freight trucks are categorised, adjust payload capacity requirements, and limit how many years a truck stays on a fleet. The directive is yet to come into force, however.

A week after the authorities launched the new system, and opened it for registration, not a single freight truck operator has shown up until late last week. Close to a hundred freight operators with 13,000 trucks were expected to register.

Developed in collaboration with the Technology and Innovation Institute (TECHIN) at the cost of 30 million Br, the Integrated Transport Management System is designed to enable the Authority to supervise the status of freight trucks across various checkpoints in the country. Incorporating the public transport sector shortly is part of the plan.

Freight truck operators welcomed the move by the Authority for greater transparency. But they found the requirements for registration "onerous" and "exaggerated."

Operators are expected to submit trade licenses, vehicle deeds, performance evaluations, driver employment contracts, insurance documents, and fleet management plans to register online. An association must have at least 150 freight trucks with payload capacities of 30tn each to gain level one, whereas level two and three operators are expected to have 100 and 75 trucks, respectively. Having 50 trucks with a minimum payload capacity of 20tn is a requirement for level four.

Dejene Luche, general manager of Yegna Cross-Border Freight Transport Owners Association, with a level two status, says it is difficult to submit all the documentation as it is difficult to collect from each of his members in a short period of time.

"We don't have enough time to gather all the information asked to register on the new system," said Haile Belay, general manager of Unique Cross-Border Transport Association, which operates with 150 members and over 200 trucks.

Officials of the Authority believe the new registration process is much simpler than what was formerly required of the operators. Previously, operators were obligated to present fewer documents, including an audit report, in-person to the Authority to register or have their licenses renewed.

The operators only need a user account, according to Endale Demeku, a team leader in overseeing the cross-border freight transport competency assurance division in the Authority. The digitisation enables the Authority to better follow up on the status of freight trucks as they move through the 18 border checkpoints in the country, he believes.

"The older registration system made it difficult to understand the demand and supply in the sector," said Endale. "The process was also time-consuming."

Trucks were often registered twice or not registered at all.

The digitisation effort could be a step towards improving freight transportation if it considers operators' capabilities, says Matiwos Ensermu (PhD), associate professor of logistics and supply chain management at the Addis Abeba University.

"It must be user friendly," he said.

Not including operators in the development of the system was a missed opportunity, according to Matiwos.

"This could have helped avoid difficulties during implementation," Matiwos told Fortune.

The Authority had previously provided an eight-day training to approximately 200 freight truck operators on the use of the new system. However, the deadline for registration is approaching, set for August 21.

"We haven't decided on an extension," Endale told Fortune.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 03,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1105]

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