Says bus owners should employ only drivers with experience

Scant regard for speed rules and young drivers at the wheel of private buses formed the deadly cocktail leading to road accidents, said State Transport Commissioner Rishi Raj Singh.

He said this in an interview to The Hindu on Saturday after he visited Malappuram where 13 people were killed and 30 injured when a private bus hit a tree at Thelekkad, near Perinthalmanna, on Friday. Eight members of a family were killed in another accident at Mukkola, near Tanur, last week.

“Eighty-five per cent of private buses do not have speed governors and 80 per cent over-speed. Kerala has one of the best public transport systems in the country, but absolute disregard for speed rules and law has caused a severe dent in its effectiveness,” Mr. Singh said.

The Transport Commissioner said he had visited survivors of the tragedy and recorded their testimonies. “Survivors say they heard a loud sound, as if of a tyre puncture, shortly after which the vehicle lost control. The investigation by the police is on,” he said.

Taking exception to bus owners employing young drivers, mostly in their early or mid twenties with an eye on speed and profit, Mr. Singh said his department would short send a proposal to the State government dissuading the practice.

“We want a necessary clause included in the service permit mandating that bus owners employ only drivers with some prior experience. We have not yet decided on the exact period of work experience. That will be decided shortly in consultation with senior officers in the Motor Vehicles Department. What we are looking at is a clause similar to how school bus drivers should have a minimum 10 years of prior experience,” he said.

Asked whether his department had any suggestions to prevent private buses packing in passengers with little respect for safety, Mr. Singh said this was a “social problem”.

“People have to travel. The onus is on the private bus staff to stop more passengers from getting in. If they can always say ‘no’ to students, they can do the same to others if they feel the bus is overloaded,” he said. One of the other suggestions, Mr. Singh said was fitting private vehicles with automatic speed limiters, a device which can stop vehicles from going over a particular speed. “Every road, be it a national highway or a panchayat road, has a specific speed limit beyond which vehicles should not go. This device reads speed limit signs and controls the vehicle,” he said.

“We are also planning to adapt Radio Frequency Identifications (RFID) to suit our context and use them as time-checking instruments. Stage carriers will be given corresponding tags.

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