2016年07月18日

What ails bus industry ?

WE have never been short of proposals for road accident prevention measures over the years. In fact, after the Genting Highlands bus crash on Aug 21, 2013, an independent advisory panel to the Transport Minister was set up.

The Genting bus crash, which killed 37 including the driver, was described as the worst in the country. The panel subsequently submitted its report complete with 51 recommendations to the minister in January 2014.

How many of the recommendations have been implemented so far?

Among its recommendations is the installation of speed limiters for public service and goods vehicles. It also included the proposal for the speed limiter to be tested for functionality and performance during vehicle roadworthiness inspections. Was this ever implemented?

In December 2013, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) encouraged public buses to be equipped with the global positioning system (GPS) to prevent them from speeding. However, the monitoring of the speed limit of their vehicles was left to the respective companies.

Six months later, in May 2014, only 112 of the 164 express bus operators in peninsular Malaysia installed the GPS devices. During the audit by SPAD, it was found that some companies only installed the GPS devices to meet licensing requirements.

In 1998, the Cabinet wanted to make it mandatory for the installation of black boxes on buses to reduce road accidents. The Road Transport Department (RTD) backed down when bus operators opposed the plan, saying that it was too expensive.

Are human lives worth less than the cost of installing the device? In fact, bus operators would not be monitored like unruly kids if they had toed the line.

Initial reports claimed that the bus went out of control owing to brake failure. Vehicles going out of control and crashing is frequently in the news these days. Has any study been done on this?

There is also the SPAD Industrial Code of Practice (SPAD ICOP), started in 2012, which has a “pre-journey safety inspection by supervisors and drivers for every journey based on a daily checklist prescribed by SPAD.

Initial investigations revealed that the Menora Tunnel accident, where a runaway bus rammed into 10 vehicles on July 10, was due to brake failure. How is the “pre-journey safety inspection” going to account for this?

Moreover, 63 summonses were issued to 25 drivers of the express bus involved in the Menora Tunnel accident between 2011 and 2015. The driver who was involved in the crash has nine summonses to his name.

Such traffic offences are supposed to be accessible online in the RTD system. Drivers would not be allowed to renew their licences and the vehicle owner to renew the road tax and permit, particularly when they have such an impressive list of traffic offences.

According to Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi, the three major enforcement agencies – the police, RTD and SPAD – are not linked to a common system to share information on offenders, including drivers of commercial vehicles. Each is working on a different platform and hence there is no system to synchronise the information of traffic offenders.

The 2013 Genting Highlands crash report had highlighted this weakness so why was it not rectified? This lack of cohesion between government departments has allowed people who are unfit to operate public transport services and drivers who are not supposed to helm the steering wheel to take busloads of passengers for years.

Currently, RTD personnel are going undercover to nab errant bus drivers flouting traffic rules but this is not a permanent solution when the perennial problems involving bus companies, their drivers and the questionable road worthiness of the vehicles are not addressed.

CAP is also keen to know when SPAD will make it mandatory for the express buses and their drivers to adopt the Safety Star Grading system. This will allow commuters to decide which express bus they wish to choose, much like the grading system that we see in coffee shops.

According to SPAD’s 2014 statistics, there were 4,534 express buses, 5,158 tour buses, and 736 chartered buses operating in the country. There were 198 express bus operators, 141 chartered bus companies, and 896 tour bus businesses.

With such a big fleet of buses and number of companies, it is a ticking time bomb for another accident to happen unless the Government has the political will to rectify whatever is ailing the bus transport industry.

CAP demands the implementation of all the 51 recommendations in the 2013 Genting Highlands bus crash report to stop unnecessary and preventable deaths on the road.

Letter to The Star, Published: Monday, 18 July 2016
What ails the bus industry?
By S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS, President, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)


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