Leveraging Technology to Improve Regulatory Compliance and Trade Efficiency: A Focus on Road Transport
Road transport is an important mode for Africa’s trade, carrying over 90% of intra-regional and regional trade (Afreximbank: 2019). This is likely to continue into the future in the absence of meaningful investment in alternative modes of transport such as rail and maritime transport. Thus, it provides an indispensable link within and between the regional economic communities (RECs) and provides critical support to their supply chains. It is important to ensure that challenges and bottlenecks disrupting the cross-border transport system are addressed in order to significantly improve trade efficiency and support regional industrial development.
A significant share of the challenges experienced by carriers can be linked to soft infrastructure related issues such as:
fragmentation of regulatory instruments, regulatory regimes and technical standards which affect market access for international carriers, how the vehicles are used and cost of doing business
inefficiencies in regulatory systems and enforcement procedures due to the fragmentation of instruments and duplications
unharmonised and unintegrated systems and manual procedures for enforcement which require physical stopping of the vehicles
traditional regulatory and enforcement approaches reliant on physical detection and prosecution of offenders rather than technology utilisation to monitor compliance
enforcement targeted only at the carrier and truck driver, with no deterrent impact on the many stakeholders who have a significant influence on compliance on the road regarding the cargo and the vehicle itself
lack of real-time data and tracking capabilities regarding vehicle movement along corridors.
To regulatory authorities, compliance with regulatory requirements is critical and it is an integral component of their mission as they aim to preserve road infrastructure assets, ensure safety and security of road users, vehicles, drivers, cargo and other road users. Unfortunately, the challenges result in poor levels of compliance and eroding the efficiency and competitiveness of logistics services providers and traders. This makes time to market unpredictable which culminates in lower profit margins and delays in bringing products to consumers.
It is for these reasons that there is need to look at innovative and cost effective solutions which can significantly improve regulatory compliance. Better enforcement approaches will support opportunities for greater efficiency, higher productivity and improve trade efficiency.
Improving regulatory and enforcement efficiency is therefore one of the most important interventions to improve the effectiveness of regulatory authorities and law enforcement operations; and to overcome regulatory barriers. This will improve trade efficiency for all stakeholders in the cross-border landscape. Harnessing technology to improve regulatory compliance and enforcement has the potential to bring efficiencies to a number of time consuming, physical, labour intensive and often burdensome activities. Options available (which may need to be legislated) include:
corridor traffic control systems and realo-time traveller information systems to equip regulators and enforcement officers with up to date information regarding traffic conditions in the corridor and at border posts. This information can also benefit carriers and truck drivers
global positioning systems for monitoring route adherence usually checked for by law enforcement at roadside checkpoints
satellite-based vehicle positioning and tracking which enable assessment of compliance with route restrictions
advance weigh-in-motion systems to monitor truck loading and compliance with vehicle weight limits without the need to stop vehicles at roadside checkpoints
vehicle recognition systems which include automated number plate recognition and radio frequency identification. These can be combined with speed cameras and data processing systems to automate speed compliance
on-board weighing systems for vehicle weight monitoring without stopping the vehicle
handheld enforcement scanning devices to check and verify compliance when the vehicle is stopped and only when it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Such equipment can be used to scan the vehicle licence disc (OECD: 2011).
These technologies will improve detection of offences and make possible to process the rapid and efficient processing of the transgressions. To effectively use these technologies, improvements to back office equipment and information systems will be required to facilitate handling and processing of data relayed from the corridor. Priority should be given to improving:
market access administration systems to link the conduct of the carrier to their licences
integration of weighbridge systems to enable sharing of information between weighbridges located along the corridor and avoid multiple weighing of vehicles enroute
digitalising information flows between regulatory and law enforcement stakeholders operating in the corridor.
Improving back office equipment and systems will enable the regulatory and enforcement authorities to process and utilise big-data to inform decisions regarding operations and interventions which may be required. This will not only improve regulatory compliance levels, but also trade facilitation efforts along the corridors and service value chains. Thus, the technologies will not only benefit regulatory and enforcement authorities but every stakeholder in the value chain:
carriers will benefit from productivity gains, reduced corridor delays due to unnecessary stoppages, less traffic congestion, savings on fuel costs and improved overall efficiency
traders will benefit from reduction in corridor delays, predictability in use of corridors and trade efficiency
logistics services providers will benefit from improved logistics, opportunities to embrace e-logistics with regard to tracing vehicles and cargo in transit and optimisation of value chains.
Technology has the potential to transform the road transport regulatory and enforcement landscape in Africa and this will significantly improve regulatory efficiency and effectiveness of enforcement operations, which can be expected to result in improved compliance levels. Ultimately, this will result in significant reduction of duplication, delays, transit time, logistics costs and improve trade efficiency. As the transport technologies continue to evolve, it will be important to ensure policy and regulatory responsiveness. Adopting technology solutions will reduce inefficiencies in regulatory and enforcement operations, improve corridor efficiency and transform corridors connecting the African RECs which in turn will contribute towards accelerated achievement of the objectives of the AfCFTA.
Carlan, V., Sys, C., & Vanelslander, T. (2019) Innovation in Road Freight Transport: Quantifying the Environmental Performance of Operational Cost-Reducing Practices
Karsten, J. & Ashok, B. (2019) New transportation technologies brings regards and risks
Kennedy, J. (2017) How regulatory reform can advance automation in the Freight Transportation Sector
OECD (2011), Moving Freight with Better Trucks: Improving Safety, Productivity and Sustainability, OECD Publishing.
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