Analysis: GODFREY CHITALU
AS A person who plied for hire before, fully conversant with the rat and mouse relationship with traffic officers, allow me to make some suggestions on passenger transport driver authorisation.We need to not only relook at the requirement of passenger transport drivers having a public service vehicle license but also delve further into the pros and cons of 25 years, as a basic age qualification for such drivers.
The rule of thumb in our country for a person to be authorised to carry passengers is to have a public service vehicle licence, whose eligibility among others is being 25 years or older. This age limit must be cut to allow more people to compete for such licences and in essence broaden safety levels. It is not only about job scarcity but locking out many energetic young people below 25 years of age is detrimental to the market that has been flooded by older, less astute and sheepish drivers.
My suggestion is that since age requirement for one to obtain a motor vehicle licence in Zambia is 18, five years minimum experience should warrant someone graduating to eligibility for public service vehicle licence. It goes without saying then that 23 years should be the lower bar for PSV drivers. Road Transport and Safety Agency, which is mandated to issues licenses in our country, should move with times. In fact other liberal citizens have even proposed for further reduction to twenty years.
In terms of age requirement, if the bar is lowered to 23 or 20, many of our youngsters can easily find employment as taxi and bus drivers, whose red number plates only allow PSV licence holders. Although PSV license has blanket authorisation to drive passengers, classes A1 to T on a licence show the categories of vehicles to be driven.
Coming back to our main issue, private vehicles that are not categorised as taxis or buses most times are seen to carry passengers with or without PSV-licensed drivers. At times drivers using class B have been known to ply our roads, with eyes alert for that traffic officer. In order to protect such drivers, there is need to offer temporary relief to their escapades while at the same time beefing up Zambia Revenue Authority coffers. How can this be done legitimately?
As an opinion columnist, I propose that a limited cover for such vehicles can be authorised; 06.00 hours to 10.00 hours and 16.00 hours to 20.00 hours bracket! This period, which normally involves to and from work or school pick-ups, could be ideal for allowing certain vehicles to ply within towns at a small fee. For instance, ZRA can charge a daily, weekly or monthly fee which can be displayed on any such vehicles whose drivers want to earn an extra Kwacha. A special disc can be created that can be stuck on such cars for traffic officers to allow special passage. Any vehicle that exceeds a certain period, say one year of continuous plying can be forcefully changed into a public service vehicle during their next visit to Road transport and Safety Agency.
Drivers who are involved in carrying passengers but have no PSV licences can be put on a time trial that allows them to carry passenger when they purchase a monthly passenger transport driver authorisation pass. Such drivers can be given special routes for the sake of helping passengers. For instance, as a driver whose dwelling place is along Mumbwa road, and having a valid class C licence and having a limited cover to carry passengers, I can be authorised to do so only on the aforementioned road.
If this is looked at favourably, it would allow me and others to carry passengers on our way to and from work and at the same time contribute revenue to the country. The current scenario is that during morning and evening rush hours, most motorists are forced to pay middlemen K5 to allow them to carry passengers. On some routes, these middlemen-cum-cadres have accumulated so much wealth as to drive their own vehicles. Should we enrich individuals at the expense of the nation?
Driver and vehicle authorisation can help RTSA track both and reduce the uncanny and frenzied habits of traffic officers chasing any driver they deem is plying for hire. Another way would be to allow all those drivers and their vehicles to be pre-booked and carry designated passengers while contributing to ZRA. In this way, public safety and that passengers, can be assured.
The author is a social and political commentator.
Analysis: GODFREY CHITALU