New Straits Times
SPAD: PAY BUS DRIVERS MORE
EXPRESS bus drivers say they make as many trips as possible during peak seasons, with little or no rest, to earn higher commissions. But this puts their passengers at risk. The Land Public Transport Commission believes improved salaries and benefits can
LONG-DISTANCE bus drivers claim many of them are forced to “chase” more trips during peak seasons so that they can earn more.
Some of them earn RM35 in commission for a one-way trip that exceeds 300km and that, on top of an average salary of RM2,000 per month, has forced them to take more trips to make ends meet.
There are also those who prefer to drive alone on long-haul trips so that they get to keep the commission to themselves and not split it with a partner.
Frankie Loke, 64, who has 39 years’ experience in driving longhaul and short-distance express bus services, said many drivers were suffering as they needed to chase trips so that they could earn more commission.
“A bus driver’s earnings depend on the company they work for. The most common structure is a commission of RM140, which is paid to the driver and co-driver for each long-haul bus trip.
“So, a driver will earn RM35 per trip. With such a low amount, you cannot blame us for wanting to chase more trips to earn more,” said Loke, a father of two, at the Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal here.
However, he said, the bus company he worked for was strict in its regulations for bus drivers, and he currently drove an express bus that made the 120km journey between Batu Pahat and here four times a day.
“My commission is RM20 per trip because I ply a shorter route. When I used to drive a tour bus between Kuala Lumpur and Penang, it was the norm to earn very little in commission.”
Loke said when he drove the longhaul route, he made “1½ trips” per day, which meant that the second trip of the day would end in him resting in either Kuala Lumpur or Penang.
He said the company he currently worked for was strict when it came to speeding, and the management office would call up drivers when they exceeded the 90kph speed limit for buses on highways.
“For me, I always remember that I have 30 people’s lives in my hands.
“That means I must make sure they arrive at their destination safely. So, keeping to the speed limit and following road regulations is a must.”
When commenting on the possibility that the driver in the Pagoh bus tragedy, which killed 14 people and injured another 16 on Saturday, might have been suffering from a lack of rest in between trips, Loke said it could not be ascertained because different drivers had different styles of working.
He said one could not blame any driver from being tired when driving late at night as the cool weather and dark road conditions could make even the best drivers sleepy.
“On my current route, if I get sleepy, I stop at a rest area. I let the passengers take a drink or go to the toilet and I will take a short rest.”
A bus timekeeper, Hisham Md Salleh, 49, said long-haul bus trips also required more than one driver as stipulated by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
“But, some drivers prefer not to have a partner as they have to split their pay.”
Stage bus driver Radhi Mamat, 36, said a long-haul driver should get at least five to six hours of rest before going on their trip.
He said if a journey involved several stops, the driver should take another five hours of rest before continuing the journey.
“Sometimes, bus drivers do not tell their management they are tired, as companies only want to know that you are ready to drive when they need a driver for a trip.”