•Uganda and Rwanda have put strict measures among them change of crew at border points.
•The Kenya Transporters Association(KTA) have decried high cost in employing more drivers which will add to the cost of transportation.
Poor planning, intimidation, and delays at regional border points is slowing down the movement of goods among the East African Community member states, transporters have complained.
According to the Long Distance Truck Drivers Association (LDTDA), drivers are now taking between three to four days before making it across the busy Kenyan-Uganda border of Malaba.
Delays at borders have increased truck turn-around time between Mombasa and Kampala from an average of 3.7 days to about 10, the time a truck takes to deliver cargo to Kampala and return to Mombasa.
They said there is also increased loss of goods at the borders and stigmatisation of drivers delivering cargo from Mombasa
The delays have been caused by measures taken by the Ugandan and Rwandan authorities aimed at managing the coronavirus pandemic but are now proving to be a trade barrier due to lack of enough testing equipment..
Last week, the Uganda minister for internal affairs, General Jeje Odong announced a raft of measures reached at by the Trade and Transport National Taskforce sub-committee among them mass testing, which is yet to commence due to cost implications.
It subjects drivers to 14-days quarantine.
“The queue at Malaba currently stretches 30 kilometres into Kenya. There is a huge delay,” the truck drivers’ association chairman Nicholas Mbugua told the Star, “Worse is that Kenyan drivers have been labeled corona.”
Both Uganda and Rwanda, which are key transit destinations, have also proposed relay truck driving for transit trucks destined to their countries as a way of containing the spread of Covid-19.
Rwanda now only allows in trucks that have changed crew at its Rusumo and Kagitumba customs border posts.
“Clients with perishable goods and consignments that require special warehousing facilities such as petroleum products shall be allowed to proceed to destination after the change of crew members,” Rwanda Revenue Authority Commissioner-General Bizimana Ruganintwali said.
This means each truck will have a driver at every border point to take over the cargo to the next destination, a move supported by truck drivers.
“All regional governments should consider this to save drivers from harassment and victimisation,” Mbugua said.
The Kenya Transporters Association(KTA) says this is a challenge as it will require the recruitment and training of new drivers.
KTA chief operating officers Mercy Ireri said this will drastically push up operation costs at a time when transporters are reeling from the effects of low cargo volumes and longer transit times.
"Transporters would also incur additional expenses in providing accommodation for additional drivers," she said.
“The security and safety of the cargo would be compromised by multiple drivers involved in single haulage,” Ireri further said noting the relay driving would create inefficiencies.”
KTA has suggested that drivers undergo mandatory Covid-19 tests at borders. If a driver is found to be negative, the same driver should be allowed to proceed with the trip to its destination.
“Covid-19 tests at the boarders should be hastened and congestion avoided by drivers being allocated numbers for testing. We propose further and faster stakeholders engagement to help come up with a workable cargo movement approach,” Ireri said.
Border delays coupled with slow uptake at the Mombasa port could lead to port congestions, clearing agents have warned.
“We need to speed up processes at the port and borders to avoid future port congestions,” the Kenya International Freight Forwarders Warehousing Association National Chairman Roy Mwanthi said.
Uganda accounts for 83.2 per cent of transit cargo through the port of Mombasa, into the hinterland via the Northern Corridor, South Sudan taking up 9.9 per cent. DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.
Between January and February this year, KPA handled a total of 1.7 million metric tonnes of cargo destined for the hinterland.
This is high compared to 1.5 million tonnes handled in a similar period last year, indicating high cargo volumes at the port despite a slow down in the global supply chain over coronavirus.