THEY drink copious amounts of caffeinated energy drinks to stay awake while driving their buses and lorries. Some admit they use drugs too.
A survey by Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), where bus and lorry drivers could anonymously reveal what they go through, showed how risky their work conditions are.
Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris said drivers interviewed by CAP reveal that they received a basic salary of about RM1,000 a month. And they get an extra RM180 per trip for driving between Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
“Between 2007 and 2016, lorries and buses alone accounted for 2,525 road deaths.
“Out of fear for their lives, more people now opt to travel using trains,” said Mohamed Idris.
He urged the authorities to take serious measures to reduce fatal road accidents involving express buses and cargo lorries.
Mohamed Idris also said among the factors that may contribute to accidents include uncontrolled issuance of licences that create stiff competition, low pay of drivers that cause them to do more trips than they can humanly handle, mental stress for drivers due to long driving hours and road congestion, poor driving conditions from improper vehicle maintenance and lack of legal compliance.
He said CAP’s survey revealed that many drivers work well over 12 hours a day and are hired on service contracts, which are renewable yearly without any termination benefits.
“In light of the alarming feedback received, CAP calls on the government to urgently institute strong measures such as initiating a public inquiry on road transport safety and forming a commission to specifically oversee the commercial bus and lorry driving segment, stricter controls of licences for commercial vehicles to prevent unhealthy competition, ensure all heavy vehicles are fitted with GPS systems and require that buses are sent for regular Puspakom tests.
“We also urge that the drivers be provided with decent salaries, benefits and allowances and ensure operators strictly comply with mandatory contributions to Social Security Organisation and ensure there is a co-driver for all long-distance vehicles.
“Accidents happen in a split second.
“Drivers should be healthy and alert, and not tired from long hours of work,” said Idris.
On April 8, a factory bus carrying 43 MASKargo contract workers plunged into a monsoon drain in Sepang, Selangor, killing 12 people including the driver.
Police believed the bus was, at the time of the crash, being driven at high speed.
Investigation is being conducted to determine if the driver was racing with another bus during the fatal crash.
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