Holistic approach needed for bus drivers’ safetyPOSTED BY CBT Team ON 20 October 2014
Following the stabbing of a RapidPenang bus driver on Oct 6 by a deranged woman passenger, Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Zulkifli Mohd Yusoff said that installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in its buses will be sped up.
The presence of CCTV cameras may deter crimes and offences but would not prevent those bent on doing so.
I used to drive a custom-built MPV taxi with a partition separating the driver from the passengers.
As such, I did not have to be extra careful when picking up passengers but those who drove normal taxis had been robbed, injured or killed after letting their guard down.
As for stage buses, it is not practical to build a separate compartment for the driver as a transparent plastic shield could offer adequate protection if placed strategically.
It is difficult for drivers in one-man operation (OMO) buses to stop passengers from boarding and as a result, many commuters are packed like sardines during the rush hour.
In overcrowded buses, communicable diseases, molesters and pickpockets would have a field day.
When grossly overloaded buses veer out of control, insurance companies could repudiate passenger liability claims, and those injured would suffer a double blow.
Regular commuters have little respect for drivers in OMO buses that had been collecting cash and pocketing the fares.
If cash and card payment machines installed in buses can often go out of order, it would be no surprise that some of the CCTV cameras would also suffer the same fate.
In the Klang Valley, most of the dilapidated buses are owned by a company that rents them out by charging a fixed rate, with the drivers and conductors sharing the fares collected.
They are operated like oversized taxis and often overtake other stage buses at breakneck speed to sweep up passengers.
On the other hand, RapidKL bus drivers are paid between RM2,500 to over RM3,000 monthly, based on salary and allowances.
Dishonest bus drivers earn more through pilferage and would compete fiercely for passengers with other bus companies.
Ugly scenes have occurred and one recent incident was on Oct 7 at a bus stand near Aeon in Taman Maluri, Kuala Lumpur.
A bus driver went up a rival company bus, pulled out the driver and furiously assaulted him with a thick cane. The victim had to be taken to hospital by ambulance.
Apart from being a police case, the authorities should also investigate whether the aggressive driver was emboldened or empowered by his superiors to take the law into his own hands.
If so, the top management should issue clear directives to put a stop to any animosity between the staff and drivers of stage bus companies to prevent a recurrence.
CCTV cameras should be installed in buses to deter both passengers and drivers from committing crimes or offences, such as pilferage.
They should also be mounted at selected bus stops to monitor the movement of buses and behaviour of drivers on the ground.
It is crucial that smaller stage bus companies are allowed to operate without coercion by bigger players in the market.
All stage buses provide an essential service. Together, they provide more than 600,000 rides daily in the Klang Valley.
Any disruption would cause a chain reaction which would affect productivity and well-being of a few hundred thousand commuters and their families.
As such, a holistic approach is needed to tackle issues involving bus drivers, including their safety.