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EAC rolls out electronic driver management system to stem Covid 19 and ease cross border cargo movement

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The East Africa Community (EAC) secretariat has rolled out the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS) that will help in cross- border sharing of Covid 19 free certificates electronically in what the industry player touts as a game-changer in addressing

This followed a joint ministerial meeting of the Ministers responsible for Health, Trade and EAC Affairs held on 25th March of 2020 and in line with a directive by the Sectoral Council on Trade, Finance and Investment held on 3rd June this year to discuss the subject.

EAC secretariat has, in a letter dated 17th July, notified its Member states to start implementing the RECDTS on 24th July 2020. This is after piloting of the system that commenced on 18th July, 2020.

“It is important to know that from 24th July 2020, all Covid 19 certificates for cross border track drivers shall be issued from RECDTS platform and the EAC wishes partner states to officially inform all transporters about this regional initiative and sensitize them to have drivers registered in the mentioned system,” EAC secretariat said in a letter addressed to all Permanent Secretaries responsible for EAC affairs in EAC region that was also copied to their counterparts in Ministry of health in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

This initiative has received support from Trademark East Africa (TMEA) in partnership with the East African Community (EAC). The Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) the regional private sector apex body of the Customs Clearing and Freight Forwarding industry mobilized private sector logistics associations to participate in the review of the RECDTS system concept. Initially, FEAFFA together with the National Logistics Platform (NLP) in Uganda proposed a journey management system (JMS) to combat spread of covid19 by truck drivers. The JMS concept enhanced the RECDTS.

Although the region has been using Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) for tracking cargo movement along the corridors, the system lacked a component of tracking individuals, which has become necessary in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic to manage their behaviors and overall welfare.

This system will enhance the safety of drivers along the transport corridors and also harmonize activities and promote mutual recognition of COVID-19 tests among EAC partner states.

Trucking companies will be required to get accredited on the system by registering drivers and crew members. Drivers will be required to have smart phones with reliable internet connection.

They will also be required to have their phones on throughout the journey, keeping in place designated routes and comply when needed to stop at designated stop points. The system has programmed these points.

The Ministry of Health has an account for relaying test results and another for validating COVID-19 free certificates before allowing the drivers to proceed. The protocol requires a driver to be tested 48 hours before the start of the journey by an accredited facility in any country as long as the facility is configured in the system.

Once the testing has been done, electronic certificates will be issued in form of a QR code for future scanning and validation by the health officials. No certificates will be issued for positive results and in the event of such cases, country’s health protocols will apply.

By clicking to start the journey, the truck driver’s mobile phone will become a tracking gadget and will be visible to command centers till the end of the journey. The command centers will share information in real time. Alignment of the consignment to the truck will be done by East African Revenue Authorities (EARAs).

Health officials in designated points will test, validate certificates and update the information on the system.

At border points, which have experienced major gridlocks in the recent past, it will be a matter of confirmation by authorities before allowing entry or exit.

“Once tested, those who test negative will be issued with a digital COVID-19 free certificate and will be allowed to proceed with the journey while those who turn positive will not be issued with a digital certificate to proceed. The trucking company in question will have to assign the job to another driver with negative results. The certificates will have unique ID with validity dates with tests remaining confidential,” a stakeholder’s brief recently said.

Relief drivers will then log into the system, accept jobs and continue with their journey. Validation of certificates will be done by health authorities by scanning the QR codes and as per the social distance guidelines. The officers will update the info into the system at each stop point.

The new system will give the industry a sigh of relief following serious delays at border crossing that has increased truck turnaround and the cost of transport

Recently released statistics by the Shippers Council of East Africa (SCEA) showed that the cost of transporting cargo from Mombasa to Kampala has gone up by an average of USD1000, USD 1400 for Kigali, USD 2000 for Bujumbura and 2400 for Juba.

While it took an average of 2-4 days for a return journey to Kampala in last year, the Covid 19 period has seen this rise to 7-9 days. In Kigali, it is taking 14-16 days up from 7-8 days in 2019.

Transporters took 9-10 days to reach South Sudan but now they need 21-26 days for the journey, SCEA said. From Mombasa to Bujumbura, from an average of 9-10 days in 2019, transporters require 19-20 days.

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