Fleet and fuel
Newer vehicles, regular maintenance practices, and cleaner sources of energy can all contribute to limiting environmental emissions and related harmful health impacts from IPT operations. In addition, improved driving behaviour on the part of IPT drivers can have a positive impact not only on such emissions, but also on passenger safety. However, achieving safe and clean IPT services through fleet and fuel improvements may not always be affordable. Public sector transport budgets usually enjoy little leeway or political support for IPT financial assistance, while limited access to private sector capital reduces owners’ appetite to invest in vehicle replacement and maintenance. Meanwhile drivers need to pay their crews, fuel bills, association fees and vehicle rental amounts before securing their own wages. Any new costs in the IPT system cannot be passed on to passengers, whose household budgets are already stretched thin. Proposed interventions in fleet and fuel improvements need to navigate this fragile financial situation, balancing the sometimes-competing aims of clean, affordable and safe IPT.
Taking this into account, TRANSITIONS sets out a progression based on:
Improved maintenance of the existing fleet as a priority in the short-term
Fleet renewal schemes in the medium-term
Shifts to electrification and alternative fuels in the medium – long-term
Overview of types of actions
Actions related to IPT fleets and fuel improvements can be divided into those that involve i) vehicles at the supply, acquisition and maintenance stages, ii) driver-led actions to reduce fuel consumption, iii) infrastructure provision interventions, and iv) fuel- and emissions-related actions. These actions are described in the table below, and, where possible, examples are given of where such actions have been implemented in the TRANSITIONS case cities as well as elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Experience and perspectives from the TRANSITIONS cities
Vehicle supply and acquisition – In all the TRANSITIONS countries except South Africa, IPT vehicles are imported, used vehicles. In effect, these countries and cities are being used by the origin countries to cast aside unwanted, outdated vehicles, that would not meet new emissions standards required to achieve local air quality and climate change targets. Unfortunately, since these vehicles tend to be available at a lower price point than the equivalent new vehicle in the local market, they are attractive to operators who have limited financial resources. This is a problematic trend that will require concerted action not only by the origin and destination country authorities, but also by intermediary countries through which these vehicles are distributed.
In South Africa, its protected new vehicle market and local manufacturing industry have created conditions for one particular, locally produced model to become dominant in the market. As it is relatively expensive, a local financing industry has emerged. In particular, there is one finance house that focuses exclusively on IPT finance. It appears to be targeting the less financially literate – and perhaps desperate – IPT owners, charging what amounts to punitive interest rates to mitigate against the financial risks presented by its clientele. Addressing this situation will also require concerted public authority intervention.
Across all of the TRANSITIONS countries, it is unlikely that the political will exists to intervene effectively in these vehicle supply and acquisition dynamics, which suggests that there is the scope (and likely need) for outside intervention, for example by development finance institutions, to bring some balance and positive change.
Fuel and emissions – IPT vehicles in all of the TRANSITIONS cities, with the exception of Freetown, were found to spend many hours on the road every day, for much of the time carrying full loads of passengers. Judging by the relatively low commercial speed, including in Freetown, a lot of effort – and fuel – go into navigating congested, limited road space that is in most instances shared with general traffic. While IPT drivers spend a lot of money on a daily basis to purchase fuel, actual fuel consumption and the emissions that arise from burning this fuel were not prominent concerns. Ensuring that they carry sufficient passengers to meet the day’s financial targets was a more pressing concern. From the owners’ perspective, fuel and emissions were also not key considerations at the time of purchase. Rather than an environmental or health argument, it seems an economic argument aimed at changing drivers’ practices would hold more sway in order to stimulate improvements in fuel consumption and emissions from IPT.
Since there are existing engagement and representation platforms in the TRANSITIONS cities between government authorities and IPT owners or drivers, the pre-conditions exist for building momentum to share and implement the aforementioned economic argument. It is important to bear in mind, though, that operational decision-making is largely left to drivers, who typically see one another as competitors on the road. Change should be conceived and implemented at the system- or area-wide level, otherwise individual drivers will continue to be motivated by the first-to-the-passenger mentality.
Passenger views – Passengers are the primary source of income for IPT operations. As such they have significant collective economic power to spur change. The TRANSITIONS city passenger opinion surveys repeatedly surfaced referenced problems with vehicles, drivers and crew and infrastructure, which can be used to motivate public authorities, operators and drivers to take action that can also serve to meet fuel and emissions imperatives if packages strategically with interventions that directly target the noted issues.
The predominant issued highlighted by IPT passengers were as follows: fare level, vehicle and crew attitude dominated in the Accra survey; poor treatment by drivers and lack of service supply were foremost in Cape Town passengers’ mind; in Freetown, it was overwhelmingly vehicle condition; vehicle condition, passenger space and driver attitude surfaced most in Kumasi; and in Maputo, the most noted passenger concerns were lack of supply, followed some way behind by poor road conditions.
Each of these mentioned concerns could be addressed by a package of actions that not only attends to the root issue which passengers experienced - whether it relates to drivers and crew, owners, vehicle or infrastructure – but which also incorporates the actions listed in the table above to meet vehicle, fuel and emissions quality objectives. Furthermore, IPT operators in TRANSITIONS cities pointed out that they wished to be responsive to passengers needs, and in practice they indeed needed to be so as a financial imperative. If they could be motivated to implement fleet and behavioural changes based on what their paying customers desired, then it would likely be a more palatble message than if it delivered by a government agency or be based on global arguments about climate change.
35. Pearce, J. and Hanlon, J.T. ‘Energy conservation from systematic tire pressure regulation’, HAL open science - https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02120515/file/Energy_conservation_from_systematic_tire.pdf
36. US Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center - https://afdc.energy.gov/conserve/vehicle_maintenance.html#:~:text=Properly%20inflated%20tires%20last%20longer,%2C%20and%20up%20to%203%25.