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Monday, January 25, 2010

Putting the brakes on killer buses

SHOULD we feel better now that more severe penalties are being imposed on bus companies and their drivers, “Huge fine for killer buses,” (The Star, Jan 22)? I think not because the penalties are insufficient.

Admittedly, the latest measures are better than the puny RM300 maximum fine imposed by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board.

What is RM300 to a bus company?

So, when Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said he was not in favour of imprisoning the offenders or suspending their permits, he was as usual pandering to the wishes of the bus companies.

Why not punish errant companies where it hurts them?

How about the failure of enforcement agencies to properly implement and enforce the law?

We have seen how the CVLB, RTD and police blame each other for this or that.

How about punishing government departments which fail to do their job properly?

Two years ago, it was recommended that drivers undergo compulsory training and government transport agencies, under pressure from the bus companies, decided not to implement such training.

So history repeats itself and we wait for the next major crash before this measure, of suspending the licence, or jailing the directors, is implemented.

The RM500,000 fine alone is not sufficient. Where there are breaches in safety, the bus company must have its licence suspended.

Additionally, the directors must also be made accountable as all too often, only the small-time employees are fined and jailed.

The directors or those in senior management should be looking into safe working conditions.

It is part of their responsibilities towards their paying customers and their employees.

All transport agencies must look into the minimum pay and working conditions of express bus drivers. They are mostly part-timers who are paid a monthly wage of RM500 once the whole trip is completed.

So to make ends meet, they may moonlight or do several overtime jobs.

Many are deprived of sleep and may even take drugs. They get fatigued and fall asleep at the wheel; the consequences of which have made terrible reading lately.

Many of the victims in a crash are thrown from the bus. Why can’t the use of seat belts be made compulsory? Is it because they are expensive to install?

If we are really serious about reducing crashes on our roads, we need to implement these recommendations rather than pander to the wishes of bus companies and some of the government agencies who for reasons of their own object to these stern measures.

MARIAM MOKHTAR,

Ipoh.

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