Commuter taxis categorised as mini-buses operating in the country, particularly those in the Coaster sub-category are now transporting fewer passengers.
It has been agreed upon by all the relevant transport and security organs that these vehicles should carry the number of people they were intended for when they were manufactured.
Coasters have a slight variation in size, some coming in short chassis form, while others are long. The long chassis ones have been carrying 35 passengers, the short bodied 30, in rows of five people, with passengers literally squeezing each other.
Each row will now sit one person less – four. This kind of sitting has been not only uncomfortable for travellers, but has been risky as well. People need some breathing space when travelling in public service vehicles.
You need at least a little gap between yourself and neighbour in case she applied on her body a cream that you might be allergic to, but you do not decide who is going to sit next to you in this mode of transport.
In other words body contact has to be minimised. It is a requirement which becomes less luxurious the further the journey. And yet that has not even been the major concern. The other one has been a real risk; overloading.
If a vehicle was designed for carrying a certain number of people, say 14, it means the tyres, the chassis, the shock absorbers, the suspension, the engine, etc, are just for that number.
Any added person imposes pressure unprepared for, which to a certain degree renders the vehicle unsafe to travel in. Thankfully that is what has been rectified.
Whereas the Coaster issue has been sorted, that of the mini-buses of the HIACE type is yet to be fully addressed. Of importance to note here is the fact that these are not allowed in the country by importers anymore.
The intention is to eventually have them phased out completely. Because of their small size and unsuitable frames, they have lost favour with the national transport planners.
In them they have seat rows of four when ideally they should sit three. But since it has been strongly argued by operators that they would no longer be viable commercially if they were ordered to carry 14 instead of 19, debate goes on. We hope in the end logic prevails in a manner that places safety ahead of commercial gain.