The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) refers to the recent report in the press on the confessions of an express bus driver who had been plying the Kuala Lumpur-Terengganu route for 10 years.
We are deeply concerned to note that bus drivers are taking pil khayal or pil kuda just to stay awake and cope with their rigorous driving hours.
Sometimes the bus drivers are required to run the return long-distance route almost immediately ¬— because no other driver is available. Required rest periods for the drivers are not enforced.
There are times when the driver has driven up and down the route for 3 days at a stretch because another driver was sick or just did not bother to turn up for work. The bus driver is also required to wash and clean his bus in the short period before the return trip. He has hardly any time to catch even a bit of rest.
Apparently, log books are doctored by supervisors who do not record the names of the drivers actually doing the trip, but put in another driver’s name instead. This is in order to avoid detection that the same driver has been working for too many hours.
The driver admits that the pill has been the doom of many, as the experience is that “although the eyes are awake, the brain is asleep”. The driver feels like a zombie and his perception of space and distance is affected. Drivers speed because apparently they feel sleepy more quickly when they drive at slower speeds.
He blames himself and other drivers for valuing their financial allowances ahead of the safety of their passengers and other road users. However, he says that bus companies must also be held responsible for the accidents as they put the lives of drivers and passengers at risk in the quest to maximise profits and minimise costs.
He also points out that enforcement by the Road Transport Department (RTD) is flawed due to the lack of a system to trace a driver or a particular bus.
There have already been too many bus accidents and fatalities for the situation to be treated lightly any longer. After a major tragedy, always, there is a hue and cry and good intentions are voiced all round. However, no lasting changes are apparent. Drivers with a list of summonses are still on the loose to create more havoc on public roads.
CAP calls on the Ministry of Transport to act immediately — firstly to address the problem of drivers having to drive extra long hours without any rest in between. Regular checks should also be carried out to ensure that drivers are not on drugs or having a list of summonses or having any other problems that affect their performance.
There should be a major review and overhaul of the way that bus companies and drivers operate.
CAP calls on the Ministry to update the public on the measures that are being taken to concretely address the problems besetting bus travel once and for all.
Too many lives have already been lost in express bus accidents.