Bus operators: Let us deduct salaries of errant drivers. TRANSIT: Start paying your drivers proper salaries & benefits first. (Update #1)

Updated with some feedback from drivers!

TRANSIT took note of this interesting story in The Star, referring to a call from bus operators to allow them to deduct the salaries of their errant drivers. Responses from some drivers to the proposal can be seen here.

The irony is that bus operators do not really pay their drivers proper salaries – instead, most bus drivers are paid on a per trip basis (for express buses) or operate the bus using the ‘pajak’ (pawning) system (for stage buses & short-distance express buses) where they are allowed to keep a certain portion of the fare revenue.

Interestingly enough, it was only recently that the Bus Operators’ Association called on the government to buy out private bus operators – another unworkable and strange proposal for a solution to our public transport woes.

Bus operators: Let us deduct salaries of errant drivers (The Star)
10 March 2011
By TEH ENG HOCK and P. ARUNA
newdesk@thestar.com.my

KUALA LUMPUR: Reeling from criticisms of “harbouring” reckless drivers, bus companies have proposed that they be allowed to deduct the salaries of errant drivers to pay traffic summonses.

Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali, who sent the proposal to Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam and Labour Department director-general Datuk Yahya Mohamed recently, said this would discipline the drivers and put an end to the rising number of bus accidents.

“Enforcement agencies point the finger at bus operators whenever there is an accident, and want us to discipline our drivers, yet they don’t give us the power to do so,” he told The Star yesterday.

“It is not fair for bus companies to settle the summonses of errant drivers. It is also dangerous for passengers and road users as the drivers will not think twice about breaking the law.

“Until we are allowed to discipline our drivers, there is no way we can help improve road safety,” Ashfar said, adding that drivers currently earned between RM2,000 and RM3,000 a month.

[TRANSIT: RM2,000 – 3,000 per month? So why are ppl working in offices/shops for RM 1,500 or less?]

If the association’s request is to be accepted, Section 24 of the Employment Act, which prohibits such deductions, will have to be amended.

At present, under the Land Public Transport Act, bus companies are responsible for the traffic offences committed by their drivers.

Section 240 of the Land Public Transport Act states that companies that fail to settle the fines will be blacklisted.

The proposal is PMBOA’s first reaction following a spate of bus accidents which have left scores of people dead.

In his proposal, Ashfar pointed out that discplinary action, including sacking of the drivers, had no effect as other companies hired them due to a shortage of bus drivers.

[TRANSIT: Right, the shortage of bus drivers must exist because people do not know about the great salaries that bus drivers can get!]

FOONG PEK YEE and ALLISON LAI report that the proposal has drawn flak from several parties, including Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha and Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) president Khalid Atan.

Kong said disciplining the bus drivers was only part of a bus operator’s responsibility.

“Ensuring the safety of passengers must be done in a holistic and pro-active approach,” he said. “It includes ensuring that the buses are in good condition, the drivers have a proper attitude and are competent, and working conditions and remunerations are good.”

The minister described the proposal as “passing the buck” of disciplining their drivers to the Government and enforcement agencies.

Khalid, on the other hand, proposed a reward bonus to encourage bus drivers to adhere to traffic regulations.

“Employment is not just about money, but also training and welfare,” he said. “The companies could have a monthly appraisal, and provide bonuses if no summonses are recorded,” he suggested.

“Use the reward system, and not punishment,” he said.

Employment law expert Datuk T. Thavalingam said there was no provision currently in the Employment Act 1955 that allowed employers to deduct employees’ salaries to pay for summonses.

“Any legal implementation of such a provision to deduct the wages lawfully would have to be through an amendment of the law.”

TRANSIT Says:

Is it enough for us to say that we do not agree to this proposal?

Is it enough for us to say that we are a little bit concerned about the strange proposals coming out of the Pan-Malaysian Bus Operators’ Association in recent weeks?

Is it enough for us to say that solutions need to be found and need to be found immediately?

Actually it is not enough. But SPAD, the Human Resources Ministry and the Labour Department (and the Ministry of Transport) need to make sure that bus drivers are working under safe, healthy working conditions.

That means that bus drivers deserve reasonable monthly salaries, the opportunity for SOCSO and EPF benefits, allowances for some of their travel costs … and most of all, respect from their employers.

When the PMBOA is ensuring that all of their association members meet those standards, then we have that level playing field that is needed to start talking.

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13 thoughts on “Bus operators: Let us deduct salaries of errant drivers. TRANSIT: Start paying your drivers proper salaries & benefits first. (Update #1)”

  1. It is simply unfair/unjustified that the innocent party have to pay for their wrongdoings and nonsence. It is time for them to face their own music. The time has come!!

  2. One more thing, all the bus operators will not pay their drivers/workers with proper salary first because if they do so, their wives/husband can’t afford to wear Rolex watch, they can’t afford to by LV items, their children can’t afford to buy computer and the latest X Box, I-Phone or I-Pad or DX. They cna’t afford to drive Mercedes/BMW, they will not be able to stay in gigantic mansion/bangalow. Bus operators’ children have to study in expensive and porsch private international school. The bus operators will not be able to travel and having holidays in Japan, USA, UK, the whole of Europe and spedn their weekend on luxurious cruises. How can??! Oh, my God!! That’s why the bus operators will never and able to pay their drivers with PROPER SALARIES AND BENEFITS!!

  3. Low pay or high pay DOES NOT justify unethical behaviour. Here, lives of dozens of passengers and other road users are at their hands.

    Drivers must have a sense of responsibility. Demanding high salaries first is counter-productive as it only increase operating cost without an equivalent service improvement.

    1. @Wrongdoings_RapidKL

      No one is demanding “high” salaries here. What TRANSIT wants is fair and reasonable salaries – rather than a “payment per trip” system that puts the drivers at a complete disadvantage & sets up dangerous and irresponsible driving.

      It should not be a surprise that the bus companies with the best safety records are those that pay their employees on a salary basis rather than ‘per trip’.

      The excuse that it will increase costs (and therefore fares) is not a legitimate one – the same excuse has been used to justify the unsafe design of buses as well as the irregular fitting of buses (such as the bus involved in the Cameron Highlands bus crash).

      Companies can find efficiencies in many ways that are safe and reasonable.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  4. i agree with moaz here. punitive action by singling out bus drivers could become a witch hunt. it is also a form of passing the buck here by the bus operators.

    the problem as i see it as this – bus drivers that hv poor driving record may still be rehired. we hv poor checks + ctrls to prevent the rehiring of such drivers. we don’t know what is going on behind the doors of operators that are cutting costs, and the enforcement officers may be on the take. due to bus companies cutting costs, they pass on the cost to the consumer.

    what i suggest is this – let the market decide via a pricing mechanism.
    what we do know is that some buses hv better safety records than others. as such, buses like ,aeroline(i don’t work for aeroline btw) can price higher. some others with poorer records are priced lower. but can we make this info widely available, put a ranking on top buses in terms of safety / comfort / service etc like hotels. buses with poor records would hv poorer ranking then. publish this info making it easily accessible and as such, ppl would buy tickets from buses from better safety records where they can.

    buses with poor safety records would hv this problem then – either cut their ticket price OR move up the ranking by having better safety practices instituted to show that they are improving.

    as for bus operators rewarding their drivers via bonuses etc, this is sthg which they would need to do if they want to promote safety among their drivers + retain their best employees

    1. @William

      A ranking of safety records would be a very important and effective means of understanding the bus industry.

      Price, unfortunately, is not enough. Aeroline and similar buses that ply the KL-Singapore route (and other routes) are classified as “luxury” buses which allows them to charge whatever prices the market will bear. Other buses have their fares regulated by the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (now replaced by SPAD in Peninsular Malaysia).

      Since the fares are fixed for “regular” buses, the best and safest option is to go with the company that is most efficient at safely reducing costs – hence bigger companies like Transnasional and Sani Express (among others) will benefit, while those who are “stuck” using “lesser” bus companies face the possibility of greater safety risks.

      Either way, MIROS, SPAD and the Road Transport Department will have to increase the standards of vehicle safety, inspections and driver training and testing and show they have an action plan to improve things.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  5. and er, when i say making it widely available, i don’t mean just at internet blogs and twitter. ppl whom take buses can be the poor or illiterate and may not be reading this blog. to reach out to those segments of society, the singapore govt finds it useful using cartoons / visuals

    1. @Wrongdoings_RapidKL

      Actually, we did get a comment from Namewee about the buses in Muar once – and yes, we did ask him to present his views on public transport in his own style.

      It might be time to ask again.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  6. i am highly doubtful that a video posting on youtube can help on improving the situation. yes, it can be viral and definitely capture ppl’s attention. naming & shaming is sthg which is done in china right now, but sometimes it can go overboard and what becomes of citizen justice is that it fingers someone to be blamed.

    this is not to say that “shaming” cannot work. what it needs to be done is to shame the govt that the public can do a better job with limited resources. e.g – by putting together a site asking what does the tax $ that the rakyat pays goes – such as http://wheredoesmymoneygo.org/. by going through say SPAD or MIROS budget we can then put together a report charted asking this question – what hv they done with the money they are given with?

    ultimately, we need to address the underlying root of the cause of the problem. admittedly, i fail to note that there is a distinction btw “luxury” and “regular” buses. however, a ranking system can still work b/cos this –
    1) the public would be hesitant to buy the tickets of the buses that hv poor safety record. commercial buses i would think operate in this manner, at every interval they need to move whether it is fully loaded or half loaded or even 1 or 2. if ppl hesitate to buy, buses with poor safety record suffers a loss
    2) buses with poor safety records would be penalized by insurance companies (if they are not already so). premiums would be higher for those with higher # of accidents (if premiums are not regulated for motor insurance)

    you may be right that such bus operators may choose to cut cost further. but if they do so, then they are going to get penalized further both by the market + the insurance industry.

    secondly, another possible solution is to put a map on the routes taken by commercial buses and to put a number in terms of the frequency of such accidents. if the accidents keep on occuring at a certain location, it could be due to a dangerous bend etc.again, we can shame the authorities to act to rectify then if we are armed with such info.
    on building such interactive maps, i think there are talks on that but i hv not yet seen sthg of that in Msia. perhaps RSRC from UPM can advise us or are they doing sthg abt it. sometimes, it is not just the govt that needs prodding, even the academias as well as they are after all doing research paid for by grant using taxpayers money.

    such maps can be built or bought. whom to pay for it? insurance industry can be a start. reduced accidents, means less claims. when the govt is broken, the private sector shld step in.

    naming and shaming on bus operators – it can be done. just like shell trucks saying call XXX number if i drive dangerously, there are iphone apps (e.g http://drivemecrazy.mobi)allowing road users to speak to the phone reporting the number plate of the dangerous driver before them. instead of just reporting to the company, this can be stored in a database compiling the bus operators and shown to the public. whom would be interested in this? insurance industry again might.

    another possible solution is that to mount a camera on the buses. according to tom vanderbilt, we drive dangerously b/cos there is no feedback. but if there is a camera, would the driver dare to drive dangerously, knowing that if in an accident, there is evidence on him.

    1. William

      Thanks for the links and the suggestion of designing an interactive map – it looks like the technology is now making things possible and there are companies interested in offering the services.

      One of the companies is called “SeeClickFix” or seeclickfix.com and they have asked us to contact them – so yes, let’s see what can be done.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  7. no problem.

    on the issue of rating system, there is this initiative done by the NZ govt called Operator Rating System http://www.nzta.govt.nz/commercial/assistance/ors/ to benchmark heavy operators, using a star system.
    the ratings will then be shared with the public to let the market decide.
    i think we can study this to be adapted for commercial buses as well, recording number of safety violations etc

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