MIROS DG: Safety belts by 2015; SPAD COO: It’s not soon enough;

TRANSIT took note of some very interesting comments in The Malay Mail about the new proposals for the installation of seat belts in express buses by 2015. We also note that SPAD COO Azhar Ahmad states that 2015 is too long and the installation ought to start as early as 2015.

Now, TRANSIT wants to note very clearly that MIROS has made it very clear that what we need is safer construction of buses and that installing seat belts is only part of the solution.

Bus crash image from The Malay Mail.

Road Transport Department (RTD) automotive engineering division director Mohamad Dalib says very clearly: “Before we can fully regulate the seat belts installation in buses, the bus builder’s must firstly adhere to the strict UN/ECE regulations, in particular, R 14, R 36, R 66 and R 80 for bus design and construction.”

And he makes an excellent point: “There is no point wearing seat belts when the bus body disintegrates during impact. So, it’s important to improvise the bus construction process in accordance to UN/ECE standards.”

Exclusive: Seat belts in buses (The Malay Mail)
… and tougher express, tour coaches by 2015 to end shocking passenger casualties in crashes
SHAHRIM TAMRIN
ANDREW SAGAYAM
Monday, July 4th, 2011

PETALING JAYA: Seat belts for all passenger in express and tour buses will be a compulsory feature by 2015.

The path to full implementation of seat belts and higher quality standards of bus body structures in public service vehicles is being done gradually by the government.

An industry source told The Malay Mail this was part of the government’s plans to commit to international safety standards.

The source said safety aspects of automotive and commercial vehicles production were being augmented and enhanced as part of Malaysia’s commitment to implement the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) World Forum on Harmonization of Motor Vehicles Regulations (WP 29) for the transport sector.

Malaysia’s technical regulations for motor vehicles are prescribed under the existing legislations of the Road Transport Act 1987, and Construction and Use Rule 1959. Both regulations have generally been acknowledged by transport safety watchdogs as ”brief” and commonly prescribed minimal technical requirements for road traffic injury prevention.

Besides the two existing regulations, bus-building companies now have to comply with the UN/ECE WP 29 regulations as well.

“By looking at the gradual process of implementation of the UN/ECE regulations on strength of super-structure and seats for large passenger vehicles, the authorities are targeting 2015 as the year when express and tour buses will be equipped with seat belts for all passengers,” the source said.

This development came in the wake of the nation’s worst bus crash tragedy, in Simpang Pulai, near Ipoh, Perak, last December, where initial investigations showed the vehicle had undergone some modifications involving the installation of extra seats which compromised passenger safety and ultimately claimed 28 lives of mostly Thai tourists.

Malaysian buses were said to have with weak body structure, especially on the roof design, and poor seat anchorage which caused many fatalities during crashes.

When contacted by The Malay Mail, Road Transport Department (RTD) automotive engineering division director Mohamad Dalib said the department was moving ahead with efforts to tighten the law with the inclusion of UN/ECE regulations for higher safety standards in private and public service vehicles.

DISASTER: Rescue teams at the crash site in Simpang Pulai in December. Twenty-seven people were killed. Image courtesy of The Malay Mail.

“Over the last two years, seat belt installation has been made compulsory just for the first row of passengers behind the bus driver,” Mohamad said, adding to implement the full seat belts rule in express and tour buses, RTD must enforce the standards to strengthen the bus structure.

“Before we can fully regulate the seat belts installation in buses, the bus builder’s must firstly adhere to the strict UN/ECE regulations, in particular, R 14, R 36, R 66 and R 80 for bus design and construction.

There is no point wearing seat belts when the bus body disintegrates during impact. So, it’s important to improvise the bus construction process in accordance to UN/ECE standards.”

It is understood there are 127 items in the UN/ECE WP 29 regulations which emphasise four key pillars of vehicle safety – passive safety, active safety, safety of products used and conformity of production.

“We are engaging with the industry stakeholders to make them understand the need to apply higher standard for bus body structure,” said Mohamad.

When asked how the department planned to ensure the bus body structure conformed to UN/ECE standards, he said: “It would be based on technical drawings to be submitted by the bus builder’s professional engineer to RTD.

“After the bus construction is completed, it will then be evaluated by Puspakom Sdn Bhd.”

[TRANSIT: The quality of Puspakom’s approval is also in question, given that the bus that crashed in Sg. Pulai was Puspakom approved.]

Mohamad said the 127 items in UN/ECE WP 29 regulations for all private and public service vehicles production would be done in stages.

“All of the 127 items in the UN/ECE regulations will be monitored and implemented in stages by the working committee which include the Transport Ministry, Land Public Transport Commission, RTD, International Trade and Industry Ministry, Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, Occupational Safety and Health Department, Department of Standards Malaysia and others.”

Malaysia is a signatory member of the UN/ECE for the transport sector since April 2006, where vehicle technical requirements are discussed for harmonisation purposes. Malaysia is classified as E52 at the global stage.

TRANSIT Says:

We are pleased that some people have acknowledged that the construction of our buses is probably one of the major safety issues on our roads, and better construction would probably mean that more people would survive crashes. Remember, seat belts are meant to keep people alert and inside the vehicle, but they are no protection from a disintegrating bus – especially when pieces of that bus become lethal missiles that maim or kill passengers.

For further information on the UN/ECE Regulations as well as a list of bus crashes, please scroll down to the bottom of this post.

The next set of articles features comments from SPAD COO Azhar Ahmad who believes that seat belt implementation should happen as soon as 2013, and comments from MIROS DG director-general Prof Dr Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah who acknowledges that seat belts alone will not give the desired outcome.

Seat belt law on slow lane (The Malay Mail)
Taking four years to install simple safety feature unacceptable, says SPAD
T.K. LETCHUMY TAMBOO
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

PETALING JAYA: The compulsory implementation of seat belts for all passengers in express and tour buses by 2015 does not sit well with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).

Its chief executive officer Azhar Ahmad said taking four years to install this simple but vital safety feature is unacceptable.

“Two years should be sufficient time to achieve this, by 2013, and the faster this is done the more lives will be saved in accidents,” he said, adding that having seat belts in express and tour buses have long been an international safety standard in European and other countries.

“Other safety measures should also be mandatory, such as speed limiters in which the accelerator pedal becomes inactive when a vehicle’s speed surpasses a certain limit. In this country, only a small fraction of buses have built-in speed limiters.”

Azhar also said all bus drivers should undergo annual programmes to improve their driving skills and safety awareness.

[TRANSIT: Ok COO Azhar, we thank you for your support of installation of seat belts and your call that it be done by 2013.

Since you are the COO of SPAD, then you can make this happen even before 2013.

SPAD has a permit re-regitration process going on right now. Use your prerogative as COO of SPAD and make the installation of seat belts a requirement for permit owners who wish to receive/keep their bus operations permit, and make the retraining a requirement for drivers to receive/keep their commercial vehicle operator’s permit.

You can also make it clear that bus operators must phase out old vehicles that do not comply with the structural & safety regulations within, say 5 years.]

Yesterday, The Malay Mail front-paged a report on the implementation of seat belts in express and tour buses by 2015 as part of the government’s plans to commit to international safety standards.

It was also reported that full implementation of higher quality standards of bus body structures in public service vehicles is gradually being carried out by the government.

An industry source had told The Paper That Cares that safety aspects of automotive and commercial vehicles production were being augmented and enhanced as part of Malaysia’s commitment to implement the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) World Forum on Harmonisation of Motor Vehicles Regulations (WP 29) for the transport sector.

All these developments are in the wake of one of the nation’s worst bus crash tragedies, at Simpang Pulai near Ipoh, Perak last December, which resulted in the loss of 28 lives, mostly Thai tourists. Initial investigations showed the bus had undergone modifications to accommodate extra seats and this compromised passenger safety.

Bus construction industry needs overhaul

COMPULSORY seat belts in buses is a commendable move, but there is a need to overhaul the entire bus construction industry, says Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) director-general Prof Dr Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah.

“The seat belt requirement may not give us the desired outcomes as the bus industry here faces more critical problems,” he said, noting cases in which some bus companies resort to seat tampering (adding more seats) to maximise passenger load which may lead to disastrous consequences.

[TRANSIT: The recent Simpang Pulai/Cameron Highlands bus crash is just such as example]

“Other problems are non-compliance with the bus’ super-structure strength to withstand impact during collisions.”

He said bus operators should be made to adhere to safety standards comparable with petroleum haulers.

“Companies that operate petroleum haulers ensure that their drivers maintain a very high standard of driving and that’s because these vehicles carry a precious and dangerous commodity — petroleum. Shouldn’t we place the same emphasis on buses which carry human lives?”

[TRANSIT: Are human lives less valuable than petrol in Malaysia?]

He said there is a need to transform the entire bus construction industry in Malaysia.

“We need the involvement of many parties including the engineer who designs the bus, the manufacturer who constructs the bus’ body and the officer who authorises the construction,” he said.

“From our analysis, the capabilities of these experts here are still inadequate.”

He also said that since 2008, Miros, along with other organisations, advocated the implementation of the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) code of practice to bus companies.

“SHE was made compulsory to bus operators as part of their permit requirements in 2010 by the previous Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) and has since been taken up by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).”

TRANSIT Says:

Not much to say here. Everyone is recognizing that the problem exists. The RTD, MIROS and SPAD all agree that solutions need to be implemented. As usual the wakil rakyat aren’t saying much but we certainly hope that they will start to speak up about safety standards and enforcement.

The main issue is simple – does the public want to have a safe express bus construction industry that meets world standards, or not? And if we do, how strongly are we going to speak up about this?

UN/ECE Regulations on seatbelt and bus body structure

R 14 – Safety Belt Anchorages
R 16 – Safety Belts
R 17 – Seats
R 18 – Protection Against Unauthorised Use
R 36 – Construction of Public Service Vehicles
R 66 – Strength of Super Structure (Large Passenger Vehicle)
R 80 – Seat (Large Passenger Vehicle)

Malaysia’s recent bus crashes

DECEMBER 20, 2010
The bus accident is now believed to be the worst road accident in the nation’s history.

Two Malaysians and 25 Thai nationals were killed on board an express bus at KM15 of the Cameron Highlands-Simpang Pulai road. The bus had 37 passengers on board, 34 of them were Thai tourists.

The cause of the 11.40am accident was said to be caused by speeding and brake failure.

The driver was trying to negotiate a sharp bend but failed, causing the vehicle to hit a divider before overturning.
It landed on its roof in a ditch about 51m away from the divider. The impact killed 22 passengers on the spot.

The impact of the crash was so severe that bodies were flung several metres away from the wreckage while others were trapped deep in the ditch. The bus was heading to Kuala Lumpur from Cameron Highlands.

OCTOBER 10, 2010

AFTERMATH: One of the many wrecks that occured from the accident — Pics: Hussein Shaharuddin (Malay Mail)

The accident which involved two buses, a van and two cars at KM223 of the North-South Expressway claimed 13 lives and 40 others were seriously injured. In the 6.40pm tragedy, a bus [TRANSIT: Ekspres Delima WQM 7333] heading towards Kuala Lumpur went out of control and flipped over to the southbound side of the highway.

After colliding with a van and two cars, the bus then slammed into a Welfare Department bus which was heading towards Malacca. The dead and injured were sent to Malacca Hospital and Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban. The incident caused massive traffic snarls on both sides of the highway.

DECEMBER 25, 2009
Ten people were killed after a northbound double-decker Sani Express bus skidded and hit a divider at KM272.8 of the North-South Expressway. The victims were seated on the lower deck of the bus in the 1am incident.

APRIL 14, 2009
Six people were killed including the bus driver in an accident involving a double-decker express bus at KM443, North-South Expressway near Rawang, Selangor.

DECEMEBR 7, 2008
Ten people were killed after a Super Nice Grassland express bus skidded and overturned at KM146.5 of the North-South Expressway near Pagoh, Johor. Five women, four men and a nine-year-old girl died while another 19 were injured when the bus overturned in the 2am incident.

AUGUST 13, 2007
Twenty passengers of the Super Express bus were killed in an accident which took place near Bukit Berapit, Bukit Gantang, Changkat Jering, Perak. The driver, Rohizan Abu Bakar, lost control of the bus as it was going down an incline and crashed into a ditch at the KM229 of the North-South Expressway. Rohizan 38, died, along with 19 passengers. Police disclosed the driver had two arrest warrants and 13 summonses against him.July 30, 2006: 11 people killed and 35 injured when a tour bus overturned and crashed into a ditch at KM160.8, North-South Expressway near Jawi, Nibong Tebal, Penang.

At the time this was thought to be the worst crash in history in Peninsular Malaysia.

MARCH 9, 2007
Six people were killed and 20 injured when an express bus skidded into a ravine at KM254, North-South Expressway, near Sg Perak rest and recreation area.

MARCH 2, 2007
Two people were killed and 18 hurt when a bus carrying Umno Maran Division members was involved in an accident at KM89.7, North-South Expressway near Gurun, Kedah.

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2 thoughts on “MIROS DG: Safety belts by 2015; SPAD COO: It’s not soon enough;”

  1. informative.. Is there any update for this post.. I am currently doing a study on bus traffic accident. if possible to provide the accidents between 2000 to 2014. thanks and regards 🙂

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