‘Let bus operators set fares, train drivers for free’


PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya should train more people to become bus drivers and deregulate bus fares, says Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Ashfar Ali.

Ashfar was commenting on Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Syed Hamid Albar’s call for bus drivers to be paid better salaries and bring to an end the present commission system which paid the drivers according to the number of trips they made.

Syed Hamid claimed the commission system “forced” drivers to “chase trips”. His comments followed a bus accident in Pagoh, Johor, on Christmas eve that left 14 dead and 16 injured.

Ashfar said currently the government regulated bus fares.

He said bus operators should be allowed to work out their own business models, ensuring better salaries for drivers and improved services for passengers.

“Express bus fares should not be regulated.

“Cooking oil prices have been deregulated, so have school bus fares. So, why not express bus fares?” he said, adding express bus fares were last reviewed in 2009.

So long as bus fares were not deregulated, said Ashfar, bus operators would find it difficult to pay better salaries.

On the shortage of bus drivers, which Syed Hamid identified as another issue affecting the industry, Ashfar said this was due to the high cost of training drivers.

Syed Hamid had said locals were not interested in becoming bus drivers, but Ashfar said the obstacle was the high “entry cost” for drivers into the industry, pointing out that one-third of bus drivers in Singapore were Malaysians.

“it can cost about RM5,000 to learn to become a bus and lorry driver, including obtaining the various licenses and other fees,”he said.

The E licence is required to drive large commercial and public transport vehicles.

Ashfar said the government should consider offering free driving courses for bus and lorry drivers, in addition to its various skills training schemes.

“If the government allocated resources to train more drivers, we will have a sufficient number of bus drivers and lorry drivers.

“Furthermore, it will be good for the economy as we can ‘export’ more drivers to Singapore.”