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Commercial vehicle driver training needs revamping

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 14 July 2016

By Y S CHAN

DRIVING institute operators have come out against the proposed exemption of Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence for taxi drivers.

They fear the move will eventually be extended to Goods Driving Licence (GDL) for lorry drivers, reducing their role to Competent Driving Licence (CDL) for learner divers only.

The institute members are claiming they have contributed significantly to the road safety skills and level of service of commercial vehicle drivers, but the number of accidents and fatalities remain at an appalling level.

The instutute has worked closely with the Road Transport Department (RTD) on improving various aspects of training for taxi, bus and lorry drivers but many are clearly not up to par.

Driving institutes are similar to academic institutions in churning out large number of degree holders — there’s litle concern for the graduates’ performance and impact on society.

Degree holders may have gained some academic knowledge in colleges and universities but are unproductive at work if their skills are minimal.

The knowledge needed to obtain CDL, GDL and PSV licences is nothing more than memorising the Highway Code and a list dos and don’ts, with driving skills developed through practice.

But good drivers require more than knowledge and skills as their behaviours on the road are determined by their attitude and fear of being caught.

Malaysian Driving Industry Standards and Modernisation Council president Datuk Hanafi Mat Zin questioned SPAD’s ability to train cabbies on the right skills to ferry passengers.

Many people do not realise that the same person treating customers well when operating a food stall would try to exploit passengers when driving a taxi.

However, drivers would be in their best behaviour if passengers are contacted through mobile apps and this explains why there are few complaints against untrained Uber and Grab drivers.

Likewise, complaints against cabbies are not those using taxi apps, and no amount of training will change the behaviour of drivers with no fear of being caught.

Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has lauded the plan to set up a training school for professional bus drivers.

Since November 2011, I have pointed out several times the need to set up a Professional Drivers Academy so that commercial vehicles, particularly buses and lorries, are driven in a professional manner,

This can only happen by reviewing poor regulations and practices set by the authorities and operators, as drivers are a product of the prevailing ecosystem.

Express bus industry could take a leaf from the airlines where fares are determined by market forces.

While it may not be feasible to have first class and economy seats in the same bus, it is certainly viable to operate buses offering luxury, standard or budget class services.

As such, express bus fares should be deregulated like all other buses, except for stage buses which require subsidy to keep them running for the benefit of commuters.

The requirement for two drivers on board an express bus for long distance trips has probably caused more accidents than reducing them.

Instead of one driver working on single shift in a day and having proper rest, we are having two drivers spending two shifts a day in the bus, resulting in both getting tired and sleepy.

Alarmingly, the driver of the express bus that rammed into 10 vehicles near the Menora Tunnel on the North-South Expressway was praised by the co-driver after the accident.

He claimed to have checked the bus prior to the journey and all the systems were good but had no idea why the brakes were not working resulting in the collision.

It was likely the brakes were overused when the bus was driven as fast as possible in heavy traffic over a prolonged period.

Two days after the accident, the police conducted an operation at the Bukit Gantang rest stop targeting express buses and checked with passengers over their drivers’ behaviour while driving.

It would be more effective if express buses are fitted with in-cabin and dashboard cameras that can relay videos back to the bus company office for real time monitoring.

If the health of bus drivers is monitored like airline pilots, they will be more careful with their diet and lifestyle to continue driving or be grounded.

If we expect them to be professional, they should be paid accordingly. This will attract more people in their prime to serve as bus captains.

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