OVER the past decade, the road transport system in Zambia has undergone great transformation, which has come as a result of both political and economic changes.
With the political changes came the liberalisation of the road transport sector which gave birth to an increase in the number of vehicles against a limited growth of the road infrastructure.
In 2002, Government recognised the need for both institutional and structural reforms in the roads and road transport sub-sectors to address the backlog of road maintenance and the high rate of road traffic crashes in the country.
This recognition in the transport policy transformed the conduct of business in the sector by repealing the Road Traffic Commission (RTC) and the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) and establishing the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA), which took all responsibilities of both commissions. Additionally, The National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) and the Road Development agency were established.
In 2006, the RTSA became fully operational with its mandate and responsibility bestowed under Road Traffic Act No. 11 of 2002, with functions that entail registration and licensing of drivers and motor vehicles and the management and regulation of road traffic in such a manner that road safety is enhanced and consequently reduce road traffic accidents in the country.
In order to achieve this, the RTSA pledges to work very closely with the stakeholders, which include the road users, transport service providers and the general public. Information and education are considered important tools for achievement of the RTSA mandate.
RTSA is celebrating 10 years of existence as a corporate body towards the end of the year. Its aim has been to bring sanity on the public roads and provide an efficient road transport service. With this transformation, the Agency is quick to celebrate the emergence of public awareness of road safety and appreciation of safer roads.
The road transport sector has had a great share of this transformation. Zambia was among the first countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to introduce the new motor vehicle registration document. Zambia was also among the first four countries within the SADC region to introduce the computerised driverâ€™s licence card. This measure has contributed more revenue to the Treasury and has helped to reduce fraudulently registered motor vehicles and driverâ€™s licence cards.
Government through the RTSA has continued to hold international bilateral meetings with its partners within the SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regions in order to harmonise road transport practices and procedures in order to facilitate smooth flow of cross-border transportation and trade. During this period, Bilateral Road Transport Agreements with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia and Malawi were signed. A single permit system for both freight and passenger transport between Zambia and Zimbabwe was introduced.
As a means of improving the road transport system in the country, Government introduced the Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 2013 of the Road Traffic Act No. 11 of 2002 to regulate the colour code for minibuses and taxis.
Zambia has a history of high road traffic accidents, have been ranked the third highest cause of death after HIV and AIDS and malaria. The loss to the country arising from these accidents is estimated to be in excess of K4 million or slightly more than 5 percent of the national gross domestic product. It is for this reason that the RTSA will therefore continue to implement road safety activities in order to reduce loss of life on the Zambian roads.
The RTSA has a responsibility to contribute towards inculcating, in a structured manner, a responsible disciplined cadre of road users and thus enhance road safety on our roads. Among the various target groups, schools (schoolchildren) and driving schools (driving learners) are fertile grounds through which a road safety culture can be grown and nurtured.
It is in the view of the latter that a team of experts from the RTSA and the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) developed road safety education books that have been integrated into the Zambian school curriculum. The road safety books are being printed for distribution in various schools across the country. This means that road safety education will now be learned as a subject in primary and secondary schools.
It is no doubt that the modern road traffic enforcement requires surveillance equipment. Over the past years, the Agency has intensified road traffic Enforcement through the procurement of enforcement equipment such as speed cameras, area lighting system for rescue services, LED traffic wand, breathalysers, area lighting systems for road patrol checkpoints and accident scenes, electronically, hydraulic traffic accident rescue equipment and toll tracks to remove stationed vehicles that pose a great danger to road safety, especially on the highways.
The RTSA values Governmentâ€™s commitment towards promoting road safety. On September 8, the Ministry of Transport in collaboration with the RTSA, signed a memorandum of understating on road safety with other Government line ministries and road sector agencies.
The World Bank described the MoU on road safety by Zambia as the first in Africa and a step in the right direction towards reducing road traffic crashes in the country.
In a bid to address the diverse traffic challenges, particularly cases culminating into road traffic crashes, in 2013, the RTSA in collaboration with the judiciary and the Lusaka City Council launched the fast-track court on traffic offences. This is to ensure, among other things, that road traffic matters are dealt with within the shortest period of time.
It is against this background that the RTSA and the judiciary signed an MoU to roll out the fast-track courts on traffic offences to all the 10 provinces in Zambia. As a way of empowering all road users with road traffic knowledge, the RTSA finalised the process of reviewing the Zambia Highway Code so as to meet the dynamicity in the road transport sector. The revision and development of a new driver training and instructorâ€™s manuals was equally completed.
With the opening of new corridors such as the Link Zambia 8000 road project, RTSA conducted surveys to ascertain the depth of understanding matters of road safety in rural communities.
The agency also recognises the important role that traditional leaders play in the fight against road accidents. From the foretold, the Agency has over the years leveraged on traditional ceremonies to conduct road safety education in rural communities.
As a way of enhancing service delivery, the RTSA over the past few years birthed an idea to develop a new system that would enhance service delivery of all RTSA functions and services. The new system will be called the electronic Zambia Transport Information System (e-ZAMTIS). Its objective is to embrace information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a critical success factor and thereby enhancing the operations of the RTSA.
The e-ZAMTIS development and installation process was successfully completed and the Agency will be implementing the new system to carry out its operations.
The e-ZAMTIS requirements have taken into consideration all the RTSA business processes and extend the business function to online service delivery for licensing, examination and law traffic enforcement administration.
The above modules have taken care of all the requirements which will help the RTSA achieve benefits which are not limited to the following:
Quick online service delivery
The new system is web-based and, as such, some of the services will be accessed electronically by the general public in the comfort of their respective dwellings. The online nature of the new system will encourage many would-be clients to come forth since theyâ€™ll be able to access our services electronically and pay through the various methods online in the comfort of their homes or offices.
The e-ZAMTIS has embraced online transactions which are self-service in nature. For example, corporate clients can log-in to the RTSA website and generate a quotation for the fleet and raise a check in the same amount unlike the current scenario where they use estimation.
Efficiency and effectiveness
There will be enhanced service delivery with the new system as all business functions will be performed on the system and, as such, most processes have been streamlined and aligned accordingly.
The e-ZAMTIS is a decentralized system enabling services to be accessed quicker by members of the public in their respective provinces and districts. For example, driving licences will be printed in all the provinces enabling members of the public to access this valuable service quicker.
The e-ZAMTIS is e-ready as per government policy and direction for the implementation of the e-government.
It will be interfaced with different e-payment methods e.g. mobile money.
The e-ZAMTIS has all the core business functions and support functions computerized, which is not the case under the old system.
The new driving licence has been improved upon in various aspects including its appearance, security features and clarity of information. The new driving licence has additional classes notably class â€œTâ€ for earth moving equipment and some farm vehicles. It also has a chip imbedded in it which contains all the information including the images or photos. The photo or image is duplicated to enhance this security feature. The e-ZAMTIS has field gadgets to be used in enforcement activities to read the new driving licence and can produce offence tickets.
New road tax
The e-ZAMTIS has been designed to have economical outputs for cost effectiveness; for example, the road tax disks will be printed on A5 paper to maximise paper usage.
The programme has presented various opportunities for RTSA in terms of effective service delivery in all spheres, that is, driver licence processing, motor vehicle examination and registration, and enforcement, which will lead to a reduction in the number of incidences on the road and enhance road safety, etc.
The e-ZAMTIS has also presented an opportunity to lay a foundation for the next big thing, which is business intelligence for the RTSA to be more innovative in the way it operates.
The new system will be used as a tool to enhance productivity and effective administration of road transport in the country including road safety.
Beyond the 10 years, the agencyâ€™s vision is to attain a world-class road transport system free from injury and death.
RTSA has equally adopted a new corporate plan 2016-2018 which replaced the last version.
Over time, the RTSA corporate action plans have provided a framework for the efforts of governments and private operators in improving the transport sector in the country. The mutual obligation is to improve road safety. Road crashes can be prevented and the severity of personal injuries can be reduced by legislation and monitoring, education and campaigns as well as road engineering and safety equipment and vehicles.
The lives that will be saved and the reduction in the number of road users injured naturally mean that fewer families will have to deal with the consequences of road crashes. Society will also gain significantly, because fewer deaths and injuries will mean less expenditure on treating accident victims and social security costs. In other words, it pays to invest in road safety â€“ both for the individual and for society.
Going forward, the focus areas for the agency include the following: to improve road safety; to rebrand the agency and develop infrastructure; to enhance service delivery; to enhance revenue collection; and to enhance stakeholdersâ€™ management and communication.
Because of good policies that Government has put in place, the number of motor vehicles in the country has also continued to increase.
Currently, the vehicle population for Zambia is close to 680,000 registered motor vehicles.
Therefore, as a way of ensuring that RTSA meets the growing demand for service, the agency to establish more stations across the country.
As a lead institution in promoting road safety in Zambia, the agency is also re-focusing its energies and resources towards eliminating all inappropriate risky behaviour on public roads.
This entails focusing on the three factors that have been identified as key tools in achieving road safety: engineering, education and enforcement.
As the agency celebrates 10 years of existence as a cooperate body, it should also dedicate this moment to remember our beloved friends and relatives who have died from road traffic crashes over this period.
Zambians have a moral duty to join the RTSA in celebrating 10 years of promoting road safety in Zambia.
The battle against road crashes can only by won be the engagement of all. Letâ€™s all act now to stop road accidents in Zambia.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.