Public transport vehicles account for a little less than a fifth of 1.3 million vehicles on the country's roads.

Federal transport authorities have identified a quarter of a million vehicles providing public transport services with GPS tracking devices to continue benefitting from fuel subsidies. These vehicles will be issued with stickers by the Ministry.

Cross-country public transport providers will be tagged with blue stickers, and others will have white stickers.

Federal subsidies on gas will be cut off progressively beginning next month, and vehicle owners will bear market prices at pumping stations by July next year. However, public transport vehicles should see subsidies reduced by 10pc bi-annually over five years. Officials of the Ministry of Transport & Logistics have been working with their counterparts in regional transport bureaus since February to compile data on public transport vehicles.

It will continue until the end of this month, according to Tatek Negash, director of communications.

His office had initially set the deadline for identifying the number of vehicles required to install GPS devices for March this year. However, it has been pushed further.

Vehicles benefiting from subsidised fuel will receive a personal identification number (PIN) code that allows them to pay at gas stations. They will use Telebirr, a mobile payment platform operated by the state-owned Ethio telecom, where data on vehicles and their owners is stored. The platform has facilitated around 10 billion Br transactions since it was launched in May last year. A pilot programme to integrate vehicles' owners with Telebirr has begun in Addis Abeba. Three hundred transport providers have registered thus far.

"It's been successful," said Tatek.

Officials foresee the next step is to install GPS tracking devices on the vehicles. They introduced the idea two months ago, motivated by concerns over potential illicit trade in petroleum products due to the dual-rate system to be introduced at pumping stations later this year. The devices would allow officials to access real-time information on vehicles' locations, routes, and speed. They can also help monitor car sensors, such as those measuring fuel consumption.

Close to 40 GPS device providers have been selected. They are expected to have a paid-up capital of more than one million Birr, with a track record of installing 100 GPS devices.

KT KM GPS System & Trading Plc, one of the suppliers selected, has installed GPS devices on over 1,500 vehicles. It has over 2,000 devices in stock, disclosed Kirubel Tadesse, the general manager. The company was at the forefront when the Customs Commission mandated the installation of GPS systems on all cargo trucks three years ago.

Yared Tesfaye, general manager of an industry lobby group representing over 100 importers of GPS tracking and speed limiters, agreed with Kirubel.

“The previous attempts failed due to corrupt practices, administrative problems and a lack of awareness amongst end users," he said.

Another mandatory requirement imposed three years ago was speed limiter devices on vechiles imported into the country. It has not been successful.

“Old vehicles need servicing because their gauges don’t work properly,” said an importer of GPS devices.

However, according to Birhane Zeru, president of the Ethiopian Transport Employers' Federation, public transport vehicle owners and drivers remain unclear about the requirements. The Federation represents 54 transport associations with over 9,000 members.

"We need further discussions," Birhane told Fortune.

The authorities seem open to considering the demand for more talk.

"We've held discussions with stakeholders, repeatedly," Tatek said. "We're open for further discussion."

PUBLISHED ON Jun 11,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1154]

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