The internet has made it possible for people to work remotely from any part of the world. This has created employment for millions of people with various digital skills without necessarily having to immigrate to the country where the employer is based.
The United States of America (USA) is among the largest employers of digital talent from across the world. In Kenya, the youth and other members of the general public are making a living working for companies and individuals in the US through the internet.
In this article, WoK takes a look at one of the ventures in which Kenyans have embarked on to earn a living; controlling truck drivers in the US.
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A report by Business Daily revealed that tech-savvy students are making a killing by guiding hundreds of truck drivers in the US. The students offer monitoring and support services to ensure that the drivers stick to the Hours of Service rules set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration set by the US government.
As at the time of publication, December 17, 2020, the students were based on the 12th floor of the Mount Kenya University (MKU) Plaza in Thika, Kiambu County, working on their computers, and receiving and answering calls.
The initiative was established after MKU signed a memorandum of understanding with US-based logistics company Road Star Inc, targeting the company’s students and alumni with the aim of enhancing global training and offering employment opportunities to them.
“Our main job is offering 24-hour support and monitoring truck drivers on the Hours of Service rules set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,” Road Star Inc local representative Monika Egle told Digital Business in an interview.
As of December 2020, Ms Egle who hails from Lithuania, Europe, was in charge of 20 students, who employed by Road Star on a permanent basis and earning a monthly salary of Ksh35,000.
The students communicate with long truck drivers in the US through a seamless electronic hardware log which is installed in the vehicles and connected to the truck’s electronic unit. An electronic logging device which is synchronised with the vehicle’s engine tracks all its movements.
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The logging device is then connected to the driver’s smartphone or tablet through Bluetooth or cable. The smartphone or tablet then sends and receives data through a cellphone connection or WiFi.
All the necessary data is displayed in the Road Star App and then sent to the servers. The Electronic Logging Device automatically records all driving activities during the day, it keeps track of the location, ignition and power status, engine hours, vehicle movements and total miles travelled. Data captured by the device can be viewed, sent by mail on request or printed.
“On our end, we are able to view this data in real-time through the desktop version of the software. We see what activities the drivers are currently performing, and if they need our assistance with anything,” Ms Egle said.
“We ensure that drivers’ logbooks are cleared for traffic police inspection, providing all necessary information about the load they are carrying, and that complies to the Hours of Service regulations.”
Egle notes that according to the US Hours of Service Rules, a driver can only work for 14 hours and then get to rest for 10, therefore, Road Star Inc looks to ensure that they adhere to these regulations.
“Additionally, after eight hours of driving, they must take 30 minutes break. Lastly, after 70 hours of combined work hours within an eight-day period they must rest for 34 hours,” Ms Egle.
She notes that Road Star Inc systems give real-time information of when the drivers subvert rules. It also shows if there is any missing information such as shipping documents or drivers’ signatures certifying the daily logbook.
“It allows us to see if a driver is in violation by displaying on the screen which violation the driver is in. We then ensure to contact the driver via phone to ensure they follow the regulations and to receive and input the information that is necessary,” Ms Egle says.
She holds a degree in International Marketing and Business and was a Community Development and Social Work Student at Mount Kenya University as of December 2020.
Road Star chose Kenya because of the country’s technological innovation and tech-savvy youth and also Kenyans speak good English. The company has operations in the US, Ukraine, and Kenya.
“This makes Kenya attractive for English-speaking business from the USA,” the company says.
“Furthermore, labour costs are still relatively low, compared to for example Europe. Lastly, the reliable power and Internet provision makes it an attractive country for foreign business, if the operations are not location-specific.”
Daisy Chepngetich who was studying Information Technology at MKU was a beneficiary of the project. She noted that the money helped her pay school fees and also, she gained much-needed global working experience.
Levi Wekesa, another beneficiary of the initiative noted that the platform exposed him to new technology concepts while earning an income as a student. He suggests that the same technology can be adopted by National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to reduce frequent road carnage.
Ms Egle notes that her desire is to see the students she is currently working with use the exposure and training gained to start their own enterprises when they leave Road Star. This, she says, can create a wide pool of employment chain.
“I am very passionate about creating opportunities for young people, which was why I decided to engage with this project. I believe that young people really shape the world we live in, and they need to be engaged, their ideas should be both nurtured and challenged, and my biggest hope is that when they are done with their Road Star-journey, they will leave and start their own companies and initiatives,” she says