Since this blog was set up in 2008, we have heard the authorities making all kinds of pledges whenever there is a fatal bus accident. Sadly, little has changed since then. Speeding buses and lorries, lorries with faulty tail lights and heavy vehicles emitting black fumes etc. are still a common sight on our roads and expressways.
The problem lies in the multiple agencies and bodies with overlapping jurisdictions over public transport. You have SPAD which is parked under the Prime Minister's Department, JPJ which is under the Transport Ministry, PUSPAKOM, JKJR, MIROS, all coexisting separately. Naturally, every time there is a fatal bus accident, there is a propensity for there to be a blame game given the multiple agencies overseeing the same if not similar issues.
On top of that, you have all that bureaucratic red tape at the top. For example, in SPAD, you have 5 Members of Commission overseeing the agency. Decisions made by the management team must go through the Members of Commission before it is passed on to the Prime Minister's Department or the Ministry of Finance for approval.
The effectiveness of PUSPAKOM is also questionable. Are the machines properly calibrated? How is DRB Hicom combating allegations of corruption and misconduct within PUSPAKOM? Are the inspection standards according to international norms? How did all those non-roadworthy heavy vehicles make it to our roads?
There are also rumours related to the issuance of public transport licenses. Some of the licenses issued under the now defunct Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (CVLB) are said to be without conditions and that these licenses run for years hence the existing regulators have no grounds to suspend nor revoke them. It is also said that many of the bus and lorry operators have both underworld and political links and because of these links they are very well insulated against the long arms of the law and the authorities.
Whatever the problems are, I strongly believe that the first step should be to merge all these agencies and bodies into one entity and to park them under the Ministry of Transport. This will increase accountability and bring together all the resources that each agency claims they are lacking.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, expressed his disappointment with the authorities over their failure to implement the 51 recommendations of an independent advisory panel to prevent fatal accidents involving buses.
“If only some if not all of the recommendations had been implemented, we would not have to continue reading stories of fatal bus accidents in the papers,” he said when contacted by The Star yesterday.
Following the recent spate of deadly bus accidents in the past few years, Lee was made chair of the advisory panel set up to review and recommend improvements to this critical service.
“Enough has been said about the issue with sufficient feedback and suggestions put forward,” he said.
Lee called on the authorities such as the Road Safety Department (JKJR), Puspakom, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and bus operators to begin implementing the recommendations before the next accident occurs.
Federation of Malaysia Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said SPAD should review its function following its seeming inaction.
“SPAD has to be held accountable simply because they are the regulators of public transport in the country.
“They should take important steps now even if it is going to be unpopular with bus operators because the fate of the consumers should be put first above all,” he said.
On Sunday, a double-decker express bus plunged down a slope along the Kuantan-Segamat trunk road causing the death of a passenger.
The bus was carrying about 40 people when it crashed near the Sungai Jernih plantation at around 4.40pm.
This was the third incident involving an express bus in Pahang over the past eight days.
An Etika Express bus crashed into a road divider on the East Coast Expressway and flipped over on Saturday, leaving most of its 28 passengers injured.
On April 12, a Transnasional double-decker bus hit an electric pole and overturned in Bentong, killing three passengers.
However, SPAD has warned that quick suspension of bus operators for infractions such as fatal bus accidents may lead to passengers stranded at bus terminals.
“If I suspend operators, the people will not have any transportation. I think we’ll have to find a way, but we will see whether the suspension will work or not,” said SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.
Syed Hamid added that bus licences and, in turn, their drivers come under the Public Service Vehicle category, which were not managed by SPAD, but by the Road Transport Department (JPJ).
He added that in principle, authorities such as JPJ and the police could conduct checks at all of the country’s bus terminals, though this would be a difficult thing to do in practice.
He also advised bus drivers who felt like they were being forced to work to report these instances to the Human Resources Ministry.