Express bus drivers are urging SPAD to order all bus companies to limit the number of trips to two a day and give them salaries, not commissions.
KUALA LUMPUR: Several bus drivers have acknowledged that the number of trips they make and trying to reach their destinations on time may be one of the causes of accidents involving express buses.
In an FMT survey at the Jalan Duta bus terminal yesterday, most bus drivers said when forced to do three trips a day, many of them were not only stressed out, there are times when they had no choice but to sleep on the bus and eat nothing more than bread.
Express bus driver Ali Kassim, 53, said he makes three trips a day from Sungai Petani, Kedah to Kuala Lumpur and back again.
“The pressures that we have to face include congested roads and heavy rains that delay us.
“There are also passengers who contact us asking if we’re going to be late. It’s not like we’re allowed to drive fast and when we do, in an attempt to be on time, we end up getting fined,” he told FMT.
Ali said he also agreed that one of the reasons for accidents on the roads involving express buses was because drivers were forced to get to their destinations on time.
In an accident that occurred at 4am on Christmas Eve last week, 14 passengers and the driver were killed while 16 others were injured after a bus travelling to Kuala Lumpur plunged into a 100-metre ravine near Pagoh.
On the matter of salary, Ali said the drivers were paid based on the number of trips they made a day, for a fee of RM33 per trip.
“On each trip, two drivers are on duty. We don’t know when we’re going to have our days off and sometimes we are forced to work up to four or five days straight before we can go home.
“If we arrive at our destinations late, we only eat bread to keep us from starving. We sleep in the bus. At times, our companies don’t even care if we get sick and the reason they give is there aren’t enough drivers,” said Ali, who has been working as a bus driver for 32 years.
Another express bus driver, Mohd Nor Sazali Ahamad, 52, said the number of people who want to be drivers were decreasing because they could not cope with the stress.
“Many quit because they can’t take the pressure and the low salaries,” he said.
Sazali, who has been a driver for 30 years, asked the government or the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) to order express bus companies to limit the number of trips to two a day.
He said this was one of the ways to decrease the likelihood of accidents.
Higher salaries for bus drivers
Sazali said he agreed with the suggestion to give bus drivers higher salaries in order to end the commission system where they are paid based on the number of trips they make.
“This is a good idea as it will also decrease the pressure that the drivers have to face,” he said.
Recently, SPAD urged for bus drivers to be paid higher salaries and end to the practice of paying them commissions.
SPAD chairman Syed Hamid Albar urged the government to introduce a more flexible bus fare rate.
In March last year, the government proposed an increase in express bus fares, but this was delayed following criticism from the public. The last review for express bus fares was in 2009.
The price of express bus tickets are still the same as in the past where the journey from Kuala Lumpur to Kangar is RM50.10, Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu (RM44.20), Kuala Lumpur to Penang (RM38.50), Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru (RM35) and from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan (RM24.10).
Izzat Rahman, 50, who is also a driver, agrees that salaries should increase and the government should introduce a flexible system for bus fares.
“An increase in bus fares can also help operators pay their drivers,” he said.