THE accident involving a double-decker bus, which had its roof ripped off while travelling under a bridge at Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur last Saturday was not the first of its kind that has happened here. And unless new measures are introduced to prevent such incidents, it won’t be the last either.
On July 22, 2016, a double-decker RapidKL bus from the city centre on its way to the Maluri depot got stuck under a bridge near the Jalan Pudu roundabout. Luckily, there were no passengers on board in both incidents.
Reading the police statement on the incident, it was very clear that the driver was totally oblivious of the height of the bus he was driving even after the collision, and only realised it after seeing the ripped-off roof. Passengers seated in the front row would have been seriously injured or killed.
Double-decker buses are a sight to behold, hence many express and tour bus companies operate them for prestige even though passenger capacity remains about the same as normal buses because the lower deck is used as a lounge or to store baggage.
Their high centre of gravity and extra weight make them unstable and unsuitable for climbing up or descending mountainous roads. They are therefore banned from routes to Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, Bukit Larut, Bukit Tinggi and Gunung Jerai.
But they are useful in the city, particularly on routes with high passenger traffic as they are able to carry more passengers during rush hour.
Drivers handling double-decker buses should possess more than the E-class Competent Driving Licence (CDL) in the same way as only those with a full B-class CDL can ride motorcycles above 500cc, or those with E-class CDL need the additional E (Trailer) Licence to drive articulated vehicles.
Drivers of double-decker buses must be trained to plan their routes in advance, otherwise they risk being sandwiched under low bridges or bringing down awnings near building entrances.
It would be a grave mistake to assign ordinary bus drivers to handle double-decker buses, and that was probably what happened in the two accidents mentioned here.