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Bus Drivers work for 35 hours without a break

by The Straits Times Saturday, Dec. 06, 2003 at 2:53 PM

Accidents happen because drivers are tired from working overtime to supplement their meager income and a lack of regulations reagarding working hours and public safety.

Express Bus Accidents
The Straits Times (Singapore), December 6, 2003

KUALA LUMPUR -- Express buses plying Malaysian highways, especially during the festive season, are prone to accidents because some of the drivers behind the wheels drive up to 35 hours without a break to make up for their low salaries.

These drivers doze off or suffer lapses in concentration when driving, the Malay-language Berita Harian reported, quoting drivers.

'They have to work non-stop because bus companies have a shortage of drivers,' said Mr Mohamed Yasin Yacob, president of the Peninsular Malay Bus Drivers Association. 'It is not a very satisfactory situation but we can't help it.'

He said that drivers are paid a basic salary of between RM220 (S$99) and RM400 a month based on their seniority in service. 'The amount is definitely not enough to pay for the family expenses,' he was quoted as saying in the report.

His remarks followed a Cabinet decision that long-distance public transport drivers be subjected to stricter guidelines to reduce the number of accidents involving these vehicles. Under consideration are limits set on the distance drivers have to cover in a day and the number of driving hours a day. Drivers may also be retrained on road safety.

The move came in the wake of Malaysia's worst road accident in recent years in which 14 people died and 30 others injured when two buses collided in Pahang on Sunday.

The driver of the express bus has been charged in court with dangerous driving. The driver of the other vehicle, a school bus, was detained but has not been charged.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said he was saddened and appalled by the terrible loss of life in the crash. 'If drivers are the cause of accidents, then what sort of actions should we take? What sort of drivers are prone to accidents?' he asked.

He said that among the guidelines under consideration was one to bar public transportation drivers from driving for too long. 'For planes, pilots are not allowed to fly more than eight hours consecutively. They have to be rested and replaced,' he said.

Datuk Seri Abdullah, who is also the Home Minister, said new ideas to tackle rising road accidents were needed because their numbers had not dropped despite the best efforts of the government.

Asked if school and factory bus drivers should be barred from driving long-distance express buses, Datuk Seri Abdullah said he did not wish to pre-empt any decision.

But he said: 'If someone is a school bus driver, he should not be allowed to drive long distance to Kota Baru or Kuala Lipis. That is not the job of a school bus driver. A school bus driver usually plies shorter routes. He will not have the same experience as a long-distance bus driver.'
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