Commentary: Confessions of an express bus driver

Terence Fernandez of the Sun wrote this interesting piece in today’s paper which shares some of the challenges that bus drivers face.

26 May 2009
Confessions of an express bus driver

I MUTTERED some unmentionables having missed the bus from Kuala Besut to Pasir Puteh on Sunday. The next bus was a two-hour wait, so I decided to splurge on a taxi for the 20km trip. Had I been early, the bus ride would only have cost me RM2.50, but the taxi would set me back RM16.

But as luck would have it, it was well worth the money. The taxi driver Pak Hassan in his beat-up Nissan Bluebird was a wealth of information. A bus driver along the Kuala Terengganu-Kuala Lumpur route for 10 years, the 54-year-old resorted to driving a cab recently, as he was done with the rigours of long haul journeys.

“I became a pil kuda addict because of my job,” he said as he wound down the front passenger screen to let in the breeze since air-conditioning can be a foreign term in these parts.

Imagine that bus drivers are taking pills to stay awake – but not exactly alert.

Pak Hassan said the bus companies must be held responsible for all the accidents that have taken place, especially the fatal ones. “To maximise profits and minimise cost, they put the lives of people – drivers and passengers in danger.”

He said enforcement by the Road Transport Department (RTD) is also flawed due to the lack of systems to trace a driver or a bus.

He claims that logbooks are doctored where the names of drivers are changed. “The law says we need between 12 and 24 hours of rest before the next trip but the supervisors will see to it that the names are changed to avoid detection. So although I am the one driving back to Terengganu on the same morning I had arrived, another driver’s name would be jotted down in my place.”

However, Pak Hassan offers a tip to the RTD if it is really serious in taking errant bus companies and drivers to task.

“The more you drive, the more you make in allowances, so all the RTD or CVLB (Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board) need to do to catch them is to ask for the pay-roll.

“The evidence is in the numbers,” he announced with a laugh as he applied the brakes to allow a herd of goats to cross.

At least we can appreciate Pak Hassan for his tip. It is unfortunate that such a system of payoffs and corruption and inattention exist – but money talks and lives are less valuable – besides, everyone believes that “it won’t happen to me”

“As long as bus companies continue to operate with impunity without regard for the law then you are going to have more fatal accidents.”

Perhaps the authorities would heed the advice of this insider and stop pussy footing around if they are sincere in reducing road deaths. It is time for the big rotan.

And the bus operators should take the lead and expel the ‘bad hat’ operators and drivers who are already on their blacklist.

If money is the issue, just think of how many bus passengers will flock to the companies with a 100% safe, collision-free driving record – and they will be willing to pay more for safety.

The fact that ALL drivers involved in fatal accidents have outstanding speeding summonses tells a lot about the apathy and lackadaisical attitude of those who are paid by taxpayers to keep our roads safe.

Isn’t that the sad truth?

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