OPINION: Selected views on buses operating twenty-four hours

Saturday July 20 2019



Honest Ngowi

Honest Ngowi 

Travellers and bus operators in Tanzania generally welcomed the news from the government that buses can now operate for twenty four hours.

This is a change from the earlier situation where buses would be required to operate only before late night. Buses from Kagera for example would be required to stop in Dodoma or Morogoro few hours before mid night and resume journey early in the morning next day.

With the new arrangement the understanding is that buses will now drive direct from Kagera to Dar Es Salaam for example without needing to wait for the morning hours somewhere on the road. There are several economic views on this arrangement as partly captured in this article.


Opportunities

When buses operate for 24 hours it implies more opportunities for all those in the value chain and nodes in this vital service. Among other things it implies more direct and indirect transactions for all actors in this space.

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Buses may make more trips when allowed to operate for 24 hours compared to when they have to pack at night. It also implies more direct and indirect employment for all those in this value chain. With more employment one expects more incomes to individuals and related benefits such as improved livelihoods.

When buses operate for 24 hours it implies more government revenues in forms of tax and non tax revenues including fees and charges.

With more trips one expects more sales revenues for bus owners. More sales revenues imply more sales profit and related taxes such as Corporate Income Tax (CIT), Pay As You Earn (Paye), Skills Development Levy (SDL) etc.

It is also an opportunity for travelers as they will have wider menu of consumption from which to choose their travelling consumption bundles. They can work during the day and travel at night for example.

These will come not just from buses only but from related services as discussed elsewhere in this article.


Challenges

The new arrangement is likely to encounter some challenges. Among these are security issues related to night business operations in Tanzanian-type economies.

These include possibilities of more robbery at night than during day light. Another one is road safety related to high speed at night.

This may be triggered by the fact that it may be challenging to have traffic police on roads at night. There are also challenges related to greed in which case some bus owners may be making more than one trip a day for even long routes such as example Dar es Salaam to Moshi and Arusha.

One sees this happening during high seasons such as during year end festivities. If uncontrolled, greed may lead to accidents if buses are not well services and operated.


Related services

Bus business does not operate on vacuum. There are a number of related services that complement this one.

These include services provided by fuel stations, accommodation, security, food, financial services and many other transport related services. This implies that the permission for buses to operate for 24 hours has to be accompanied with permissions of related businesses to operate for 24 hours as well if this is not the case already.

By extension, issues related to these other services operating 24 hours as well have to be addressed accordingly.

Employment issues

Formal businesses have to operate formally in various aspects. One of these aspects is related to employment. Labour experts are likely to inform us that operating 24 hours has implications on conditions and terms of night work and over time work. It is not all who can work during the day effectively that can do the same during the day.

Even if they do, working conditions at night are different from those during the day. Employers and employees involved in these working hours thanks to buses 24 hours operations will need to consider these issues.


Towards a 24 hours economy?

In the old days long distance buses were operating only at night. Then they operated only during the day mainly on security and safety concerns. With the new arrangement, they can operate day and night. This leads to the possibility of having a 24 hours economy in Tanzania with the many and far-reaching social-economic implications of the same.

These include the benefits of having longer hours of transactions. They also include challenges related to having an economy working all night long as partly highlighted for the case of buses.