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Commercial transportation is in high demand in Nigeria, principally because not everyone is able to afford to own a vehicle. Studies show that the population of frequent riders on public transport is made up of low and middle-income earners.

Here’s a telling statistic: about 60% of vehicles that ply Nigeria’s roads are commercial, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The fact that there are less than 12 million vehicles in the country for the over 200 million people who live within its borders means that there’s a vast opportunity for anyone who is willing to get into the business.

If you would want to start a commercial bus transport business, you will need to know where the high demand routes are, and where you’re likely to earn enough to keep the business going and make a profit.

Typically, the high-profit centres are the cities, because that’s where the large populations reside. But it’s also possible for you to make a healthy sum from inter-state transportation, if you ply the routes that are well travelled, and are able to establish the trust of passengers.

Steps You Should Take

The specific requirement for setting up your bus service will differ with respect to the type of service it will be. But we’ll list the general requirements, which apply regardless of what kind of transport business you’re working with.

1. Decide What Kind of Bus Transportation Business You’ll Be Running

You have two options here: you can either run an intra-city transport service, which means you’ll be transporting people to and from locations within a city or a district; or an inter-state service, which means you’ll be moving passengers and goods between or across states.

The intra-city transport buses tend to operate as independent, without identifying as belonging to a transport brand. However, they do have to register with the state or regional road transport association, as mandated by law. It’s usually the case that the inter-state bus service runs under a recognized name and structure.

You may work with something akin to a franchise model, which means that drivers can register their buses with your company and ride those buses under that company’s recognized logo while paying the company a fraction the earnings they get from their trips. Or you can purchase the buses and hire drivers to drive them for you.

2. Write a Business Plan

Your business plan should answer such questions as the region you’ll be operating in, the costs you’ll incur as you build the business, and the revenue you’re expecting to make from the business over time. Of course, the demand levels for the service you’re offering should also be taken into consideration, along with the prices you charge, how much you’ll pay your drivers, etc.

3. Purchase Your Vehicles

The type of vehicles you will purchase will be determined in part by the sort of bus transport business you’re planning to operate.

The inter-state buses tend to be more comfortable because they travel longer distances that intra-city vehicles- and as a result, they tend to cost more. The higher prices charged for inter-state transportation compensates for this over time.

However, try to maintain standards of decency with the buses you purchase, regardless of the areas they’ll be operating in. Contrary to popularly held belief, people do care about how the buses look. If they were to choose between a rickety bus and a decent looking one, they’ll pick the latter. This might be the difference between you standing out of the mass of commercial buses, and simply struggling with them for a share of the passenger traffic.

4. Register with the Appropriate Authorities

As we’ve already mentioned, you will have to register with the regional branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Also register your number plate with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), as mandated by the law. Visit the FRSC and NURTW offices closest to you to get these done.

5. Have Your Vehicle Insured

Vehicle insurance secures your buses against any damages to them that may arise in the course of their being used. If you insure your vehicles, you’ll be able to get them fixed while the insurance company picks up the bill for the repairs.

Decide what kind of insurance you’d like for your vehicle. Speak with an agent from an insurance company and see if there are insurance packages that you can sign up for.

6. Obtain the Necessary Documents

Besides the documents you’ll get from insuring and registering with the public agencies we mentioned earlier, you’ll also have to obtain a certificate of road-worthiness from a vehicle testing station, and vehicle purchase documents.

7. Hire Drivers

Hire drivers that you can trust, preferably people who have fairly extended driving experience. As much as it’s possible, conduct background checks on them. It’s not always easy to find drivers you can trust. But if you’re patient and firm with your hiring process, you should be able to find the right drivers for your buses.

They should have a drivers’ license as well.

Evaluation should also happen if you’re working with a franchise model.

8. Commence Operations

When you have these things in place, you’ll be ready to transport people and goods and earn from doing so. You might want to do a little bit of marketing, but it’s on the roads and highways that you will be seen. Make the work and conduct of your drivers and other officials count.

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This article was first published on 21st June 2019


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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