COMMERCIAL vehicle licences, commonly referred to as permits, were issued by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board until the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) became operational from January 2011 in Peninsular Malaysia.
In January 2012, SPAD introduced the Operator Licence, effectively empowering the Commission to suspend an entire fleet of commercial vehicles, including buses, if necessary even if just one was involved in traffic offences.
As such, the renewal of individual vehicle permits before their expiry should be a routine matter and it is unnecessary to look for reasons to delay or reject them.
For example, there are various types of buses and some deserve special consideration. For owner-driven school buses or vans, the vehicle is fully controlled by the owner. A number of buses for workers (bas pekerja) also falls into this category.
Most tour bus (bas persiaran) and express bus (bas ekspres) companies operate a mid-size fleet. The largest fleet are operated by stage bus companies, each providing essential service to many thousands of commuters daily. Together, they move more people than all other commercial transport combined, including rail.
Any delay or rejection in approving permits for stage bus operators could result in hundreds of commuters being stranded along roads that cannot be serviced.
Some time ago, SPAD officers made it a condition that all traffic summonses for any vehicle must be settled before the new permit is approved.
This was aborted after vehement protests but it was reintroduced recently, much to the chagrin of the bus operators.
The risk of committing traffic offences is very high for stage bus drivers as they have to negotiate through traffic hundreds of kilometres daily. The job is strenuous, hence it is not surprising that the turnover of drivers is high and it is common for buses to be grounded due to shortage of drivers.
Those receiving summonses
are more likely to throw them away than hand them over to the bus company. They would then choose an appropriate time to leave rather than pay for the summonses.
Operators of bus companies are already in a bind and forcing them to settle all summonses issued to their drivers by enforcement agencies such as the police, Road Transport Department and local authorities would be akin to rubbing salt into the wound.
There is no need for SPAD officers to be high-handed over the routine renewal of permits, as any bus company could easily be grounded by suspending the Operator Licence if warranted.
Private stage bus companies deserve government support because it is more costly for the Government to operate bus services for commuters.
Many private stage bus companies have chosen to close shop rather than put up with new
challenges or unnecessary constraints. Officers handling the renewal of permits should take note that SPAD’s role is to facilitate as much as regulate. The public and private sectors must be in sync to develop a healthy bus industry.