PETALING JAYA: School bus fares will likely go up in January as overheads have shot up, said the umbrella body for school bus associations.
Federation of School Bus Associations Malaysia president Amali Munif Rahmat cited higher spare part prices, pay increases for drivers in order to retain them, and competition from unlicensed operators as reasons for the hike.
Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said in response that the government should provide bus fare subsidies in the form of vouchers to ease the burden of B40 households with schoolchildren.
Amali said operators were badly hit when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down schools for long periods putting many of them out of business and drivers being let go.
He said it was difficult to find drivers without giving them a good salary. The current RM2,000 monthly pay was not attractive as they could earn that amount for less stressful work.
“We used to have about 16,000 operators but this has dwindled to about half of that,” he told FMT.
“Besides the hike in operational costs, licensed school buses face a serious challenge from illegal operators who undercut.
“Drivers are hard to come by these days as they prefer to drive express coaches and lorries which not only pay much more but are also less stressful. For one, they cannot even go on sick leave as the schooling of the children will be disrupted.”
On the projected higher fares, Amali said the federation has issued a guideline on the monthly rates according to the service provided and distance, among other factors. This can range from RM50 to RM1,000 as some parents want extremely comfortable buses which can be tracked via GPS.
Tunku Munawirah pointed out that higher school bus fares was an issue that was raised often but without a solution being found. Therefore, she said, it required the government to step in.
“The government should give cash vouchers to those in need, especially the B40 households. Some parents may not be able to afford to send their children to school and this may result in dropouts if they are not aided,” she said.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) president N Marimuthu said the issue must be resolved before the school term started as some households had to pay as much as RM500 in school bus fare for their children.
“In particular, B40 families need government support as their households can have up to five children each. Additionally, school bus operators and drivers would also benefit from the subsidy as they have been hit badly by the pandemic,” he said.
“Many drivers have lost their jobs and the subsidy will help them get back on their feet.”