Loss In Productivity Linked To Traffic Jams

ANALYSIS: More cars on the road. More traffic jams. Employers are scratching their heads on what to do with employees who arrive late to work and blame the traffic jams.
20 May 2017 10:44
Loss In Productivity Linked To Traffic Jams

ANALYSIS: More cars on the road. More traffic jams.

Employers are scratching their heads on what to do with employees who arrive late to work and blame the traffic jams.

It’s affecting productivity, says Nesbitt Hazelman, chief executive of Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation.

Some workers in the Tailevu, Navua, Suva corridor beat the traffic jams by leaving home early, some at least two hours early.

They have transport options too, by bus, minivan or taxi.

Other working people do not have that luxury.

The bus service may be limited and there is a lack of taxis or minivans in the area.

They are stuck with one bus service that gets caught in the morning and afternoon peak hour traffic.

Employers are feeling the negative impact of the daily traffic jams on their business.

Damodar Group chief executive Div Damodar says the heavy traffic congestion does affect almost all businesses in the form of late arrivals at work, loss of productivity, greater inhalation of carbon monoxide by passengers on public transport, greater consumption of motor vehicle fuel and greater use of resources for management of traffic (e.g. Police Traffic Officers, Fiji Roads Authority personnel, school patrol teams etc).

“So for the Damodar Group, we are no different from any other company but we have learned to manage this by being more flexible with employees who are affected,” he says.

“Obviously the traffic flow has been much slower with the increase in motor vehicles on our roads today.”

The Reserve Bank of Fiji said last month new vehicle registrations increased by 25 per cent.

The Land Transport Authority said in February that  “the total new registration of vehicles for 2016 is 15,196 with 4969 new vehicle registrations and 10,227 second-hand registrations… growth rate approximately 10 per cent”.

LTA says the increasing number of vehicles is proving a challenge for the Fiji Roads Authority as it works to maintain the country’s road network system through widening of roads to cater for the number of cars that travel our roads and to ease traffic congestion.

Mr Damodar said: “This is not a simple problem to address. For those that argue against the increase in new vehicles, the solution will centre on reducing the importation of vehicles and also having the system that declare vehicles non road worthy after so many years.

“This is done in some countries like Japan.

“The downside of this argument is that we will be depriving the lower income earning segment of the market from motor vehicle ownership. There is also the matter of Government tax revenue that we will need to consider.

“I think the real issue here is more strategic and is to do with better planning of town and cites routes and where public transport should be forced on us to use in certain parts of a city or town.

“Also the diversification and expansion of commercial and retail activities will assist as this would spread the traffic flow i.e. no need to keep coming into the CBD if one can get the same services at centres outside the main city.”

Mr Damodar said understanding was needed.

“If staff come to work late, than employers can allow them to work extra hours to cover for the lost time. Companies may also consider allowing staff to start at a later time accounting for the distance they have to travel from home to work.

“We may need to have a serious look at a more effective public transportation system e.g. a railway transport from Suva to Nausori, from Nadi to Lautoka, etc.

Mr Hazelman said traffic had a tremendous effect on business.

“Basically the employees do not arrive on time,  they don’t start on time,” he said.

“They don’t start work with the right frame of mind just because they are stuck in traffic for hours.

“It is hard to walk into the office, knowing you are already late and you are trying to perform.

“It is not only in Fiji, but all around the world it’s the same case.”

He said there was a direct impact of traffic to productivity.

“There are more vehicles on the road today compared to probably five years back,” Mr Hazelman said.

“We have not foreseen this which is a shame on our part and I think all stakeholders should have seen this impact several years back.

“I believe there are ways to putting strategies to address the issue which needs to be done quicker rather than later.

“One of the strategies that comes to my mind to dodge the traffic is maybe if the school hours could be changed so that there is less traffic on the road.

“The school could start probably around 9am so it doesn’t not affect the productivity of businesses.

“You will find during school breaks, there is less to no traffic on the road but during school times, there is a huge traffic and people are stuck for hours and they get tired.”

Fiji Bus Operators Association president Parmod Chand said the traffic congestion was a concern not only to the public, but also the bus companies.

“It can be solved by various means especially something for long term,” Mr Chand said.

“Our roads are very narrow. Some passing lanes could be constructed.

“Another cause of the traffic is the speed limit in some places like Suva-Nausori corridor which currently stands at 50 kilometres per hour.

“Because of low speed limit, people would want to take out their frustration and overtake other vehicles because people would be driving on 50 km per hour.”

Fijian Holdings Limited Group chief executive Nouzab Fareed said traffic congestion in Suva was a serious issue right now.

“Apart from the staff getting late, for business it has a negative impact,” he said.

“For example while travelling from point A to point B where it used to take 10 minutes, now it takes more than half an hour.

“This is a serious issue because, we also want to get things done quickly and it is not possible due to people stuck in traffic.

“Our productivity decreases in terms of managing the businesses.

“It affects the employees too as they come in late while they are already tired of being stuck in traffic for long.

“We should not look at the problem but rather the solution on how we could solve the traffic issues.

“We need to make Suva City a walk-in city.

“There are some cities in the world which are a walk-in city and it doesn’t consume much time for someone to travel from point A to point B.

“We cannot control the number of cars imported in Fiji and cannot stop people from buying the vehicles. It is very important to control the traffic.

“We can even have a pay-in travelling in the city where whoever is travelling to the city should pay a certain fee.

“Or certain areas could be a non-traffic zone so traffic could move smoothly throughout the day and especially the peak hours.”

Fiji Roads Authority chief executive John Hutchinson said FRA was addressing the issue.

“The recent statistic by the Reserve Bank of Fiji showed more than nine per cent increase in the registered vehicles in the past 12 months, which is a lot of vehicles on the road.

“But when we do conduct the road works, there is more traffic congestion,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“We have a couple of projects around the country that we are currently working on.

“We are looking at are no parking zones or free-ways during certain peak hours we are trying on Grantham Road with some success.

“In terms of specific traffic control measures, we do not have anything specific in mind at this point of time.

“We are also aware of the impact it has on businesses as well.

“We have to take all the factors into account before we carry out any projects.”

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said officers were deployed during peak hours considering the need to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.

She said: “We understand that there are some commuters who may not want us to be there, however, we cannot please everyone but we must continue to conduct our duties. This is being done as a collective approach with other relevant stakeholders because we want commuters to arrive their destination safely and without major incidents.”

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