James’ journey from tro-tro to a BRT bus

James’ journey from tro-tro to a BRT bus

After 15 years of driving ‘tro-tros’, Ghana’s infamous minibuses, James Kabu is now becoming a proud driver of a BRT bus. His life is changing radically.

As a major part of the BRT project in Ghana’s capital city, Scania is involved in the training of 600 drivers. Most of them have previously only driven tro-tros.

”It’s a big challenge, but also an opportunity for me,” says James Kabu.

Kabu is very pleased that the BRT system from Scania is now being installed in Accra.

As a BRT-driver James Kabu and 600 of his colleagues has been trained to drive large very large buses in separate lanes.

As a BRT-driver James Kabu and 600 of his colleagues has been trained to drive large very large buses in separate lanes.

“It will reduce travel time for us here in Accra and do away with much of the arguing on the roads,” he says. “But it will also change my life and my health situation. I used to get up at four every morning and drive tro-tros in traffic chaos until late in the evening before I could go home and throw myself into bed. But, of course, you want to see your kids, too. Now, I have the chance to work in a calmer and safer environment with more regular working hours. And my kids have the chance to spend some time with me and get a bit of love from their dad.”

A chance to develop

Kabu says there’s a big difference between driving buses from Scania compared to tro-tros. “They have advanced electronics and computers that I’ve been forced to learn how how to handle. That’s also a good thing for me as I’m getting a chance to develop.”

The training of instructors for the 600 drivers took place in cooperation with the Government Technical Training Centre and Ghana’s National Driver Academy. Etse Ladzekpo, Managing Director of the National Driver Academy, has worked extensively on driver behaviour, attitudes and motivation.

Etse Ladzekpo, Managing Director of the National Driver Academy in Ghana, is working extensively on driver behaviour, attitudes and motivation of the 600 BRT-bus drivers.

Etse Ladzekpo, Managing Director of the National Driver Academy in Ghana, is working extensively on driver behaviour, attitudes and motivation of the 600 BRT-bus drivers.

“The wrong behaviour and attitudes in traffic are the cause of many serious accidents here in Ghana,” he says. “People drive much too fast and there’s always stress and so much tension in the the traffic. But with the new BRT system in Accra, the government has decided to take drivers out of the existing system with minibuses and taxis and train them to become calmer and safer drivers of big buses in dedicated bus lanes. Changing behaviour increases safety for everyone, not just the drivers. It’s good for the whole community.”

Ladzekpo is working with Håkan Degerstedt – who is normally stationed at the Scania DemoCentre in Södertälje, Sweden – to train the instructors, who will in turn train more than 600 new bus drivers for Accra’s public transport system.

Learning fast

“Manoeuvring heavy buses in their own lanes is a challenge in Accra’s often chaotic traffic, but I’m impressed by how well most of them can drive even after a short time training,” Degerstedt says. “It’s a big step to take, as most are a little nervous at the beginning. But you learn fast and also quickly work out that a big bus comes with a completely different level of respect to the minibuses.

Life as a tro-tro driver is often extremely pressing, in a highly competitive business.

Life as a tro-tro driver is often extremely pressing, in a highly competitive business.

While the new drivers are being trained and the BRT system is implemented, increased numbers of passengers are being progressively released on the buses. This gives drivers a chance to learn to drive with increasingly heavy loads, while at the same time communicating the changes in Accra’s public transport system to the people of Accra.

“It’s a very big change for people who for decades have relied upon unorganised minibuses,” says Ladzekpo. “Now they’re starting to travel with modern buses and we’re trying to prepare them for the future.”