Probox new king of the road as 14-seater matatus vanish

Sunday 2nd June, 2013 on The Daily Nation

A Toyota Probox:  Photo File The TLB, which had halted the registration of the 14-seaters, backtracked and said the process would continue but the vehicles would not be allowed in towns to ease congestion. Instead, the vehicles would only be allowed to operate in rural and peri-urban routes. The number of 14-seater matatus on the roads will reduce after a government directive to phase out the vehicles resulted in a sharp decline in new registrations.

The registration of the public service vehicles dropped by 82.7 per cent last year with only 78 vehicles registered compared to 451 vehicles in 2011. This number has witnessed a gradual decline since 2008 when the directive was first issued, forcing investors to buy vehicles that can transport more passengers.

“The registration of mini buses/matatus dropped substantially as a result of suspension of Transport Licensing Board (TLB) licences of 14-seater public service vehicles popularly known as Nissan matatus,” the 2013 Economic Survey released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics noted. This has, however, opened the floodgates for the proliferation of alternative means of transport, eliciting anger and cries of unfair competition from matatu owners.

According to them, a vacuum has been created which is fast being filled by smaller vehicles like the Toyota Probox – five-seater saloons that are notorious for squeezing up to 14 passengers in any available space, including the boot. “This isn’t a good move at all,” said the chairman of the Matatu Owners Association, Mr Simon Kimutai.

According to Mr Kimutai, the registration of Proboxes has shot up and, while they are fast replacing 14-seater matatus, the government is not earning any licence fees from them given that they operate without regulation and without licensing from the Traffic Licensing Board. “Demand for transport keeps increasing and the government needs to undertake a careful study on what kinds of vehicles are needed on certain routes.

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