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For The Record: Higher fares, less accidents? Print E-mail
Friday, 19 November 2010 15:11
Yushaimi
AN article in The Malaysian Insider a few days ago caught my eye as the report suggested there is a simple way to eradicate or reduce horrific bus accidents. Quoting several transport industry players, it promoted higher bus fares as a means to yielding a self-regulatory industry.

One Dr Yeah Kim Leng, who is the RAM Holdings Bhd chief economist, claimed there was a correlation between low bus ticket prices and the number of accidents that involve buses.

"The controlled prices are too low and bus companies are not able to make sufficient money to improve working conditions and upgrade their operations."

Commuters, he argued, would not hesitate to pay more for bus tickets, "so long as there was commensurate improvement in the quality of service".

I am all for a better life - financially, even - for our commercial vehicle drivers. But I have serious doubts about Dr Yeah's conviction.

In a flash, one can shoot down this higher-fare-better-service argument when one thinks of the years of failing to get our taxi drivers to fall in line, for example.

It has to be qualified that most of our Pakcik Teksi are the genuine, honest article. Only, there are more than just a handful of the hardcore errant drivers. Throughout the years, taxi fares had gone up and yet, until today, no one can resolve the issues of cabbies not using their fare meters, refusing to pick up passengers and overcharging them.

Go to Puduraya and you will still face this scenario. After all these years? That puts paid to the theory. One can argue that they would behave if the fares are increased, but when would money alone be enough?

Others can argue, in the case of taxis, that the pajak (lease) system puts cabbies at a disadvantage. More often than not, taxi companies buy a fleet of vehicles before leasing them out to drivers.

A familiar scheme is one that dictates the taxi driver pay a fixed amount daily (say RM200) and within a few years, the taxi belongs to him.

On paper, it's a good scheme. In reality, there are a host of problems for the cabbies. Repair work, maintenance, long hours, no benefits, especially no medical. If you fall sick, you still owe the company RM200 a day.

If you take four days off to celebrate Hari Raya, you owe the company RM800,  regardless.

The funny thing is these issues have been going on for so long with no imminent solutions in sight. That, and the fact our authorities being a bit soft when dealing with them.

Forget about pussy-footing with the express bus people. No one has really tried to enforce the law as it should be.

And who can really claim to be surprised when for years now, the problem has been staring at us all the time.

The commercial vehicle permit issuing body is the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board, which is now under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department.

It was previously under different ministries (some disbanded since), but the irony is that it was never, and is still not, under the Transport Ministry.

Strangely enough, enforcement is carried out by the Road Transport Department (RTD), which falls under the Transport Ministry, assisted by other authorities like the police.

This issue was raised over and over again (yours truly had written on this matter on a couple of occasions), and yet, we are still standing in the same old proverbial Square One.

The RTD boys and girls only have the power to issue fines, impound vehicles and such. But at the end of the day, they cannot decide to suspend or revoke permits of the offending operators, for that falls under the jurisdiction of the CVLB.

Earlier this month, the CVLB revoked the permits of Syarikat Kuala Lumpur-Malacca Express Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Taipan Suria (MM2H) Sdn Bhd after express buses owned by the two companies were involved in recent accidents - one in Malacca and the other in Genting Sempah - which claimed a total of 20 lives.

In the case of the Genting Sempah accident, the bus driver involved was found to not be in possession of a valid driving licence.

I was quite bemused when CVLB chairman Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique was quoted as saying this was the sternest action by the board to date.

You don't say... Excuse my sarcasm, but the years of promises of action that yielded mostly inaction has made me a skeptic. One just need to drive on the highway to see express bus drivers are driving like maniacs still.

For what it's worth, I have to applaud the move. Finally, the CVLB is showing some bite. The question, however, remains if it can be consistent and persistent.

In the meantime, all we can do is pray...

YUSHAIMI YAHAYA is Acting Editor-in-Chief of The Malay Mail. He is baffled why some cannot see the obvious. Worse still, there are those who do but do not react. Yushaimi can be reached at yushem@mmail.com.my

Source: http://www.mmail.com.my/content/55468-record-higher-fares-less-accidents



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