Saturday, 28 September 2013 | MYT 11:33 AM
Bus drivers: We are unfairly blamed
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: When you take public transport you put your life in the hands of a stranger.
Now each of us have done this countless times but the odd incident can shake one's confidence.
A number of bus crashes in Malaysia have made made the capability of bus drivers a cause for concern for many people using public transport.
Three days ago, a bus carrying 22 people collided with a lorry at kilometre 45.8 of the North-South Expressway.
Three people including the driver died in the accident while four were reportedly serious.
On Aug 21, 2013, 37 passengers died in one of the worst recorded crashes in Malaysia’s history when a bus plunged into a ravine at Genting Highlands.
There is no definitive finding yet but according to Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), that driver had committed various traffic offences.
After these incidents, traffic police are going after some 2,900 bus drivers who have been served warrants of arrest for failing to settle their summonses. But responsible bus drivers aren't thrilled by the negative publicity.
“We’re not robots to follow every demand by the passengers. We’re human beings too,” said Segar, an Express Bus driver who commutes from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh everyday.
For Segar, bus safety starts from the passengers itself. He claimed that many of the passengers rush the drivers to reach to a particular destination.
Borhan who has been driving for the past 10 years said that the maintenance of buses are intact because the drivers will always check their bus before leaving.
“We make sure that the brakes aren’t faulty and also service the bus regularly,” said Borhan.
Just like any other career, bus drivers do go through stress and sometimes, such stress can lead to dire consequences.
Borhan says if he is stressed out and needs a rest, he will immediately request for leave from his employees.
As for Segar, being in the industry for the past 20 years has helped him to stay cool.
“I’ve met so many kinds of passengers.
“If they’re rude and insistent, I will make sure I stay calm and do my job. If they’ve any problems, I will encourage passengers to meet the management of my company,” he said
He also said if his bus experiences mechanical problems, he himself is able to fix the bus and continue the journey.
One driver who only wanted to be known as Zul said whenever a crash happens, people immediately blame the drivers.
“Drivers in Malaysia are not robots. They have hearts too. It’s fated when all these crashes happen.
“Some of the passengers demand us to go faster and there are some who ask us to drop them at undesignated places which is not allowed by JPJ,” adding that JPJ only allows buses to send passengers to designated terminals.
When asked if some of the buses used are old, Burhan said that big companies will replace their buses every 5-6 years.
“However, small companies tend to use the older buses but they maintain them by servicing it accordingly and replacing the spare parts regularly,” he said.
All three bus drivers had one suggestion to the government - To fix a minimum wage for all bus drivers.
“Most of us get paid based on a trip basis and some drivers rush everyday just to meet the trip deadline and get their daily pay,” said Segar who added that such rushes can cause accidents.
When asked to comment on the Genting bus crash, Segar said that he believed the driver was new in mountainous roads.
“Normal bus drivers can’t drive at Genting. They need to be experienced and well versed with the braking system,” he said.
Drivers need to be adept with using the leg and hand brake when driving in such conditions. Hand brakes are particularly important when driving in places like Genting and Cameron Highlands.
He also added that bus licenses should be given to drivers aged 25 and above. The Kulaijaya bus crash at kilometre 45.8 of the North-South Expressway saw three people dead including the driver who is 23-years-old.
“Express bus drivers should be experienced.
“Once they’ve turned 25, then you can ask them to drive such a bus,” adding that they can start off by driving lorries to get used to the Malaysian highways.
According to Road Transport Department Malaysia (JPJ), bus drivers need to have a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) license in order to drive a public bus. The PSV licence will be given based on the weight of the bus that the driver is going to use.
To get the license, drivers have to be 21-years-old and above, go through a stringent health test under JPJL8A and go through training module and pass the theory and practical test.
Has the time come for even tighter rules?