Smart statistics for intelligent progress: TRANSPark
International Road Transport Union (IRU)1
The burden of high transport costs, resulting from poor infrastructure, lengthy border controls and other non-tariff barriers impacts the costs of goods for consumers, export competitiveness and the attractiveness of a country to potential investors. Research into patterns, problems and transport trends is therefore vital to identifying the specific challenges required to bring about positive change.
The International Road Transport Union (IRU)’s main focus in Africa is to support governments and the private sector to reduce the cost of trade. By working with national governments, regional economic communities and the private sector, IRU is helping businesses and transport operators look at ways to achieve this, and, crucially, to more efficiently connect with global and regional markets via ports and trade corridors.
TRANSPark, an app currently used in over 50 countries, is one such significant innovation.2 Developed by the IRU for professional international drivers, TRANSPark is designed to hold all the information a driver needs to find rest stops, detailed directions, ports, information of security standards and vital transport points. Some versions of the app are region specific, designed for the particular needs of drivers in, for example, East and Southern Africa.
Earlier this year, TRANSPark was launched along the North–South corridor in Southern Africa. As a result, drivers have been able to plan their routes and rest stops in floodlit, guarded areas from Durban, South Africa to Tanzania. This encompasses Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Drivers also have access to information on the locations of border posts, weighbridges and tollbooths.
TRANSPark has already proven valuable, and once its GPS tracking capability is deployed, small transport operators—who often don’t have their own fleet management system—will be able to use it as a cost-effective way of knowing where their fleet is at any one time. Potentially even more interesting for Africa is the app’s GPS tracking capability to monitor corridor performance to determine how long it will take for goods to move along a trade corridor, by identifying blockages and delays. This performance-monitoring is important for evaluating the impact of reforms and identifying scope for further investment and reform.
Currently, corridor performance is assessed using a range of data collection methods. Some of these include physical surveys with researchers sitting in the cabs of trucks; traditional surveys where truckers, traders and other stakeholders respond to questionnaires; surveys using GPS tracking hardware inside trucks; and data collection from customs systems on processing times.
TRANSPark’s GPS tracking functionality is a useful addition to these existing methods, offering compelling advantages. It is cost-effective; there are minimal costs in terms of hardware or personnel and the app itself is currently free. The data collection group is virtually unlimited; in theory, thousands of trucks could be operating on one corridor, contributing data to the system. Data collection is also continual, not relegated to just one specific time period.
The IRU is currently working with partners to potentially launch pilot projects of the app on the Maputo and Walvis Bay Corridors. While a recent IRU study has shown how IRU’s International Road Transport harmonized system (known as “TIR” using its French-language acronym) can radically reduce the cost of trade across Africa, this new initiative is now poised to help streamline the sector even further.3 By providing the essential data necessary to tailor the road transport industry to the specific challenges of the continent, the GPS tracking function offers smart statistics for intelligent progress.