The Ministry of Transport has directed the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) to postpone the implementation of the Road Safety Fee policy (national towing services) following ongoing stakeholder outcry and discussions in the media.
The sector Minister, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, in a statement issued in Accra yesterday, said the directive was to give stakeholders the opportunity to address public concerns appropriately.
The policy was scheduled to take effect from July 1, 2017.
Mr Asiamah said the ministry had noted, particularly, the concerns regarding the quantum of road safety fees fixed by Parliament, the mandatory nature of the project, the extent of sensitisation to the project, as well as concerns of monopoly among other concerns.
“While the ministry acknowledges that the policy has been subjected to a series of stakeholder consultations, feedback from the public discourse suggests the need for further consultations to assist in public understanding of the project.
“The ministry wishes to remind the public that, in accordance with LI 2152, no person may operate a commercial towing service without permit granted by the minister or his representative,” he said.
The minister has, therefore, directed the NRSC, the initiators of the policy, to further consult stakeholders on their concerns, particularly on the scheduled implementation date.
The statement appealed to the public to remain calm and co-operate with the NRSC as the project was focused on enhancing safety on the road.
“Stationary and broken down vehicles account for 21 per cent of fatal vehicle crashes and accidents that leads to death every year. On the average, it remains our expectation that collectively, we can find the most effective solution to this concern in the larger public interest,” he said.
The Road Safety Fee policy mandates all transport operators, vehicle and motorcycle owners to pay a yearly mandatory road safety fee each time they go to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to renew their road worthy certificates.
It will be implemented by the NRSC, in collaboration with the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service and private entities such as the Road Safety Management Services Limited (RSMSL).
The proposed fees for both commercial and non-commercial vehicles, depending on weight, range between GH¢10 and GH¢200.
Earlier, transport operators, owners and users had kicked against the road safety fees, saying it was harsh.
They explained that they were not against the policy in principle and were advocating more stakeholder engagement to ensure consensus.
The Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) advocated that vehicle owners should be made to pay for the service only when their vehicles broke down, instead of the mandatory annual pre-service payment under the policy.
Meanwhile, prior to the issuance of the directive, the NRSC had said it would go ahead with the mode of payment but would consider other concerns, explaining that the policy would better enhance road safety.
Road safety intervention
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Head of Communications at the NRSC, Mr Kwame Koduah Atuahene, said the initiative formed part of national interventions to reduce road accidents, as research had identified breakdown and abandoned vehicles on the roads as a major cause of road accidents in the country.
He said the commission had received various petitions on the policy, adding: “We will look at those that are feasible and able to fit into the implementation plan and make amendments to suit stakeholder needs.”
However, he was quick to add that nothing would be done about the mandatory and the pre-payment nature of the fees.
Mr Atuahene explained that massive stakeholder engagement was done to discuss several options and that the current policy was agreed upon as the best for the country, describing it as a timely intervention to save lives.
“The current option proposed by stakeholders that the vehicle be towed and the owner charged afterwards before his vehicle is released to him has not been efficient due to a number of reasons,” he said.
He explained that with the current system, because drivers had not made any pre- financial commitments, there was usually no urgency on their part to pay and get their vehicles towed.
Mr Atuahene said the commission would conduct assessment on preparations made so far ahead of the implementation of the policy and if everything seemed good, the NRSC and its stakeholders would go ahead with the scheduled implementation date: July 1, 2017.
He was of the opinion that sometimes stringent measures were very necessary in the best interest of people’s safety on the roads.
“The government may not have the resources to deal with the problem; the private sector is there but it will deliver it at a cost,” he added.
For his part, the Director in charge of Education and Training at the MTTD, DSP Alex K. Obeng, said the initiative was a step in the right direction and was optimistic that its effective implementation would contribute to a drastic reduction in road crashes.
He said the MTTD was in full support of the initiative and would support its implementation, adding: “Although it is our mandate to ensure safety on the road, we are logistically constrained and, therefore, we welcome all such laudable initiatives.”
Touching on the pre-payment nature of the service, he explained that it would ensure the timely removal of breakdown vehicles on the roads to enhance visibility and safety.
He reiterated the NRSC’s position that the current post-payment towing service was ineffective due to the attitude of vehicle owners and operators.
“With this new system, the burden of having to mobilise funds to pay for towing services when a vehicle breaks down has been lifted, as the service is a prepaid one on a yearly basis,” he said.
Commenting on the policy, the National Vice-Chairman of the GPRTU, Mr Robert Sarbah, lauded the initiative, saying it would go a long way to clear the roads of disabled vehicles.
Nonetheless, he said, paying the fee before the service was provided was a major concern to members of the union and underscored the need for stakeholders to review it.
When implemented, he said, the policy would increase transport operational cost, which would eventually be passed on to passengers.
The Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council (GRTCC) said the implementation of the policy was long overdue.
The acting General Secretary of the council, Mr Andrews Kwesi Kwakye, said it was all for the initiative but called on stakeholders to ensure that the contract was delivered efficiently and effectively.
“It is a laudable initiative because disabled vehicles cause great nuisance on the roads when they are left unattended to,” he said.
Background — breakdown vehicles on the roads
Statistics available to the NRSC indicates that 21 per cent of road accidents are caused by abandoned breakdown vehicles on the roads.
According to the commission, six persons died daily through road accidents, while an estimated 1,800 died yearly on the roads.
By the end of November 2016, 11,378 road accidents had been recorded, involving 17,746 vehicles and 12,154 casualties.
Of the casualties, 1,990 lives were lost, while 10,154 sustained various degrees of injury.
The NRSC said statistics available also indicated that out of 10,852 crashes recorded in 2015, involving 16,958 vehicles, 1,634 deaths were recorded.
Accidents resulting from drivers running into abandoned vehicles are now new. In February this year alone, at least nine people have died from such accidents.
February 22, 2017
A former Member of Parliament for Akwatia, Dr Kofi Asare, who reportedly drove his car into an abandoned articulated truck in the curve of the Abetifi-Agogo trunk road.
February 12, 2017
At least eight people were reported dead and 11 others injured in a ghastly accident that occurred on February 12 at Ewusiejoe near Agona Nkwanta in the Ahanta West District of the Western Region at about 3pm.
Eye witnesses said the bus, which was carrying mourners from a funereal in Takoradi, rolled over several times and rammed into the other mini bus parked on the ears of the road after an overtaking manouvre that went bad.
When contacted, the Chief Executive Officer of the DVLA, Mr Kwasi Agyeman Busia, said the authority had no position on the matter, apart from the fact that it was the institution mandated by law to collect the compulsory fee.
He said the issue was within the domain of the NRSC because it handled issues of road safety, while the DVLA concentrated on licensing drivers and certifying roadworthy cars.
“It is just that we have the mechanism in place to collect the levy because it will be imbedded in the roadworthy fees when it comes into effect,” he said.
Mr Busia added that the ongoing debate on the towing levy was a healthy one that would settle the concerns raised by the public.
In 2011, the RSMSL was awarded the contract to tow breakdown vehicles from the roads.
The company went ahead to sign an agreement with the NRSC to that effect in 2013.
About 118 towing trucks were acquired by the RSMSL for the national towing service.