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Factors that contribute to bus tragedies

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Another express bus tragedy, 10 killed .

The horrific road accident involving an express bus that took another 10 innocent civilian lives adds another heartbreaking episode to the seemingly endless and hopeless situation besetting our transport system.

Time and again all the hue and cry by the enraged public and the stern actions so far taken by government – suspension of services, forfeiting of bus permits, sending of errant bus drivers to jail, public campaigns - all do not all seem to work. When we thought everything is okay, we are awakened by yet another tragedy taking away the lives of dear ones.

And God forbid, it could be us, you, me or our next-of-kin as the future victims the next time around. I do not believe these tragedies will end anytime soon. It will happen again and again and again…

I believe there is a bigger picture that none of us seems to realise and fail to grasp as to the root cause of all these road madness. One needs to bear in mind that road accidents do not occur on their own accord but as a result of aggregate and cumulative factors that eventually lead to a deadly end. Most of the blame seems to be squarely on the shoulder of the bus drivers.

But have we questioned why are the drivers sleepy, tired and at times even on drugs? Why are our bus drivers overworked? That’s because the bus owners and operators have to ensure a minimum number of bus trips so that they receive a minimum level of revenues to pay bank loans for the not-so-cheap buses that they have purchased.

If they don’t pay on time, the banks will come after them and take away their buses. On top of all this, these bus transport companies also need to send their buses for regular inspections, service, besides bearing expenses for high fuel costs, licenses to be renewed, traffic fines to be paid, road tax and insurance to be renewed annually and not forgetting the salary and allowances of the bus drivers.

All these are slowly bleeding them in terms of cost and time. You can’t increase ticket prices as these are strictly regulated by the government. Left with little choice, these transport entrepreneurs face a daunting task of making ends meet and thus force their drivers to work extra hours at the expense of rest.

So what’s left for the bus owners/operators? At the end of it all is a tragedy waiting to strike at any time.

To solve our transport malaise, we need to tackle all aspects and issues affecting our transport system namely our bank loan system, the government enforcement agencies (CVLB, JPJ, police), the insurance companies, highway operators, the human factor and many more.

So that the industry has a business environment that is fair, just and safe to all.