Commuting to a better understanding of the role minibus taxis play in SA’s public transport

Commuting to a better understanding of the role minibus taxis play in SA’s public transport
Commuting to a better understanding of the role minibus taxis play in SA’s public transport

– Unique to the South African culture, minibus taxis play a pivotal role in contributing to the country’s economy.  Loathed by motorists but a necessity to the public transport commuter, there are mixed feelings about these concrete jungle work horses within South African social circles.  Here are five facts about the industry that may surprise you.

#5 Toyota is the favourite taxi brand for owners in SA

Toyota’s HiAce and Quantum brands are the most popular choice for taxi operators when it comes to their preferred light commercial vehicle, as it constitutes 88% of all minibus taxi vehicles in SA. Another popular option locally is Nissan’s NV350 Impendulo.

#4 Taxis make up the bulk of all public transport in SA

Minibus taxis are the most popular choice and, first option for the bulk of commuters who depend on public transportation to get to work, school, or wherever they need to be. This is due to the widespread availability, frequency and range of their service, and its affordability when compared to other forms of public transport. Consequently, minibus taxis cover about 90% of the taxi market while metered taxis only constitute around 10%, according to Arrive Alive. Furthermore, minibus taxis represent a massive 65% of the total local public transportation needs, while busses account for 20% and train services for a minimal 15%.  E-hailing has also grown in popularity with South African consumers, with data analytics firm Research and Markets stating that Uber uses more than 13,000 drivers and has over a million riders (customers), while other players such as Bolt are also actively operating in this competitive local sector.

#3 Going the distance for SA consumers

South African roads sees about 250 000 taxis operating nationally, each of which averages around 6 000 km per month, or 72 000 km a year. In total, these minibus taxis complete more than 15 million commuter trips daily, amounting to approximately 19 billion km travelled annually. To put that into context, the distance from earth to the moon is only 384 400 km, so minibus taxis would have made more than 49 000 one-way trips.

#2 Big business employing and supporting many households

According to Arrive Alive, South Africa’s minibus taxi industry is made up of over 20 000 business owners that employ a very significant number of people, to the tune of 200 000. SANTACO puts the value generated by the industry at over R90 billion annually.

#1 An industry not immune to the effects of COVID-19

Just like every other business across all sectors, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has greatly impacted the taxi industry.  The industry is at present, collaborating with government and adhering to strict regulations providing for the health and safety of passengers. This includes that minibus taxis must not load vehicles with more than 70% of their maximum licensed passenger carrying capacity. Passengers and drivers are also required to sanitise their hands and wear masks as a precautionary measure prior to boarding the taxi. The industry faces tremendous pressure presently – industry underwriting manager CTU has applied measures to help alleviate that burden including reducing the insurance risk-premiums by 35% for all active CTU policyholders and allowing for zero risk-premium increases to be processed for April and May.

Next time you are tempted with road rage on account of a minibus taxi, spare a thought to the value they’re actually adding to the country which isn’t often spoken of.