Overhaul bus industry

  • Letters
  • Saturday, 02 Apr 2011

I REFER to “Sort out driver issue and all will fall in place” (The Star, March 31). The industry will take a quantum leap when buses are operated by professionally trained and disciplined drivers.

However, drivers are but the tip of the iceberg. The entire system culminating in producing such drivers needs to be overhauled and transformed.

The closest role model to emulate would be the drivers of fuel tankers operated by local oil companies. These drivers are adequately trained, closely monitored and appropriately compensated. Their vehicles, too, are properly maintained and operated, with safety uppermost in mind.

Only the Land Public Transport Commission (LPTC) can set transformation in motion by firstly deregulating fares, especially for express buses.

Express bus operators should be allowed to charge market rates and compete on service. This will keep them on their toes and ensure that their buses are well maintained, and drivers well behaved.

The airlines are doing exactly just that with their airfares, aircraft and crews. Over-regulation, coupled with lack of enforcement by the previous Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board, has created the present predicament.

LPTC should introduce measures to churn out quality drivers and not rely on the current practice whereby anyone with a heavy vehicle driving licence can be employed as a bus driver upon getting the Public Service Vehicle licence, with or without experience.

The health and character of some of these drivers are suspect. In addition, they may not be familiar with the bus or route assigned to them. It becomes a time bomb when they drive long distance overnight in inclement weather and bad road and traffic conditions.

The minimum age to drive a bus or a taxi is 21. Those with some experience driving buses and lorries should be encouraged to become professional express bus drivers.

They must be adequately trained in defensive driving, courtesy and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Those in the 25-30 age group would have a good 25 years of bus driving ahead of them if they do not succumb to the free food and cigarettes at most rest stops.

Their employers should also provide training in other areas so that the drivers can take on other roles should they choose to, or when they reach the end of their driving career.

For example, many tour guides successfully switch to other careers or take up office jobs within the same company. Quite a number have become tour company bosses.

To attract good candidates, there must be adequate compensation and a career path in place to ensure that bus driving is not a dead-end job.

The current ad-hoc practice and arrangements by unprofessional bus companies have resulted in unprofessional bus drivers.

It will be expecting too much of bus drivers to perform well when they do not earn enough to support their families.

Many of them would also fail a genuine health test but managed to renew their annual PSV licence using fake medical certificates.

The bus industry must be in the doldrums with the many express bus operators openly calling on the Government to buy them out.

Clearly, nothing short of transformation is needed for our bus industry.


Kuala Lumpur.

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