Sani Express tragedy: have we learned anything?

The ill fated express bus from Klang to Kangar at the scene of the accident at km 272.8 north bound PLUS highway near Ipoh. Taken from The Star.

TRANSIT is flabbergasted to learn on the Sani Express bus tragedy at km 273 of the North-South Expressway stretch near Ipoh 1am this morning which killed 10 people. It seems that we have not learn anything from the past.

This accident shares a striking similarity with the Rawang express bus accident which happened eight months ago; both involved double-deck express buses driven by fatigued drivers with previous traffic offences during the early wee hours, and all but one of the fatalities were recorded at the lower deck on the side of the bus which had been ripped off like an opened sardine can by the piercing impact of the rigid, sharp edges of the metal guardrail barriers of the North-South Expressway.

The previous Rawang express bus accident which is highly similar in nature proves the Improper Guardrail Installation as the main culprit in high number of deaths. The W-Beam has been installed on the embankment slope.

TRANSIT calls upon the accountable parties to start taking up actions to prevent such horrible accident from happening again. Our hearts and prayers go out to the loved ones of those who lost their lives or were injured as a result of this senseless tragedy. Every time this has happened, and every time we respond to tragedies like this we always hope that it will be the last time. Sadly, the tragedies never seem to end. Careless driving, poorly designed roads and unsafe buses run by profit-making bus operators are causing carnage on our roads.

The CVLB and the Road Transport Department must explain to the public why the express bus operator is allowed to sustain the employment of a driver with previous traffic violations.

The Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia (LLM) and PLUS should be taken to task for failing to ensure the efficacy of the current vehicle restraint systems in their expressways even after the problematic findings were made to public by the Malaysian Institute Of Road Safety Research (MIROS) on the Rawang express bus accident which showed that the lower deck passenger deaths were attributed to the decapitation caused by the improper guardrail installation by PLUS Expressway.

Improper guardrail installation is found to be one of the core culprits by MIROS for the Rawang express bus crash.

PUSPAKOM has a lot to answer on why express buses with unsafe chassis structure are allowed to cruise on our highways. The worst-ever express bus accident in Bukit Gantang which happened two years ago should have sparked enough political will to throw unsafe buses out of the road.  The guardrail would have not intruded the inside of the bus if the contact impact was resisted by the strong and stiff structure of the bus chassis at the right level height.

TRANSIT wants the government to force the accountable parties to comply with the international safety standards on allowing the construction of express bus chassis and highway crash barriers. The Road Transport Department must be made accountable to do periodical background checks on the licensed express bus drivers before the permits of express bus operators can be continued. The LLM must work with MIROS in ensuring our expressways’ safety barriers are very effective in reducing the severity of crashes when passenger vehicles and even trucks impact with them. Instead of merely offering discounts during the wee-hours, PLUS as a good corporate citizen should replace all dangerous metal guardrails with safer and properly installed wire rope barriers.

Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali texted TRANSIT that PUSPAKOM and the police are currently investigating the incident.

TRANSIT wish to sincerely offer our deep condolences to the deceased, and pray that God Al-Mighty will provide strength and patience to the family of the victims to endure this black episode.

UPDATE: Here are the links to related articles and letters on the Sani Express tragedy:

Published letter from TRANSIT:

Notable National Headlines:

Poll Result: Should express buses be stopped from making night trips?

Notable Input from the Public:

SMS:

Horrific accident
  • Too many permits issued to too many irresponsible bus companies which hire too many dangerous drivers.
  • Usage of seat belts in express buses should be tightly enforced by the authorities. — AT
  • Metal parapets along highway medians are more killer objects than safety protection. Pierce into vehicles in crash. Use concrete barriers. — Lee Hui Seng
  • Traffic/drug abuse records, no. of years driving experience of bus drivers must be displayed prominently on all buses. — Loh
  • More inquiries and more warnings to follow, then all is forgotten until another disaster strikes. 1Malaysia Boleh!
  • Build more rest areas along North-South Expressway to let bus drivers stop over & change shift with their co-drivers. Pls take action, MIROS & PLUS! — KC
Take action
  • JKR should look into the design of the guardrails along the highways because they are supposed to be the secondary protection against crashes.
  • Every time there’s a tragic express bus accident a probe is done but no action is taken 2 rectify d problem. Y probe and waste money?
  • NSE shld hv streetlights btwn say 7pm & 2am. Express bus drivers shld switch on lights inside d buses as darkness induces sleepiness.
  • Major part of divider fencing along federal highway is tilted to either side n endangers life of motorists. Wait till accidents happen b4 JKR repairs it?
Maids better off
  • Bus driver RM500 basic salary. Better b a maid! RM600, free food, lodging! Can sleep on job whn employer at work! Who wants union if u hv t Minister to back u!
Alternative transport
  • Looking at the number of express buses travelling daily north-south, and road accidents, it’s time to up grade train services or have high-speed trains. —RA

Letters to Editors Calling for Holistic Solution

Letters to Editors Calling for Crash-Worthy Measures

Letters to Editors Calling on Enforcement

Letters to Editors on Double-Deck Buses

Letters to Editors on Night Driving


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5 thoughts on “Sani Express tragedy: have we learned anything?”

  1. The statement of a unsafe chassis seems a little out of hand, the structure of the bus accident in both the accident was strong, it stood the impact, surviving most of the pillars holding the dividers down. I urge you to investigate further, last i checked both cases was with high dividers, when i say high i meant

    1) the rawang case was a maintenance issue, after repavement of the road, the divided was a little too low so the contractor went on the “jack-up” the dividers within the stretch causing it to be abnormally higher than safe height.

    2) the Sani case was not caused by the ordinary guard rail, it was a bridge guard rail with a bad end design, protrusion of the rails meant it was lethal and with no emergency lane at all, disaster was just awainting to happen. if it was any smaller vehicle then it would just probably killed everybody.

    If a aircraft falls from a sky and kills everyone in it, should the aircraft maker be told to make a stronger plane to survive a fallout from the sky? Even in Europe or the rest of the world, the ECE r66 remains the standard of safety in passenger cabin because they know how to build and maintain a safer road, but again even the most technological advanced vehicle still suffers from fatal accidents, even autobahn highway has its fair share of fatalities (considering the amount of R&D and safety equipment installed).

    I am saddened by this incident and urge for a better system within all which is involved, but nevertheless, we still have to be talking within a logical state

    1. Thanks for the information.

      In this case, we should have been referring to the body of the bus, rather than the chassis in particular.

      We are working to contact companies that provide double decker buses in Malaysia and hopefully we will get more technical information from them about the safety aspects of the buses.

      TRANSIT believes that the first and most important solution is proper payment and treatment of drivers combined with safe driving practices.

      Then we can look at safe road & highway design and the design of the buses themselves.

      Thank you very much for the feedback.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  2. Themaker and Moaz are right in the sense that passive and active safety measures should be in place.

    The Star had a lengthy report on the sad state of the express bus drivers. CVLB should be taken to task as to why the pajak system is still around, which results in skewed labor market scenario for express bus drivers. We wish if we can explore more on this, as the drivers, who are from the low income group, rarely got their voice heard in the court of public opinion (mainstream media, or the govt’s mouthpiece, or even the express bus associations and unions).

    From the pictures of the Sani Ekspres accident, we can easily see that the buffer area between the white lines and the road shoulders are too narrow. Expressways in developed countries with stringent safety requirements provide hard shoulders on both side of the carriageways which allow some extra flexibility should a motorist need to take evasive action, as it is a buffer area between the main thoroughfare and the edge of the road. Full-width hard shoulders together with rumble strips have been proven effective in the United States to prevent vehicles from veering off-course, and I have personally suggested the Head of MIROS few years ago on making rumble strips standard for long-distance highways to reduce the number of deaths resulting from drowsiness.

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