Bus quota system must go

Published by rudy Date posted on May 17, 2011

ANOTHER road accident in-
 volving buses claimed the life of an innocent citizen. Same sickening circumstances: bus drivers racing each other then running away from the scene of an accident they themselves caused.

Chit Estella was not only a credit to the journalism profession but a credit to humanity. I knew her only professionally having run into her every now and then during my tenure in the Senate and in Congress as a legislator. But like those close to her, I feel such a sense of loss for her untimely death, another senseless death caused by rash and negligent PUV drivers.

The accident that claimed her life is just like the accident that killed Dr. Francisco Sarabia three years ago, which also involved buses racing each other along Edsa. If you recall, the driver of the bus that rammed Sarabia’s car had been apprehended by the Metro Manila Development Authority 30 times for various traffic violations. The bus driver clearly had no compunction violating traffic rules and had no business being behind the wheel of a huge public utility vehicle.

Sadly, there are many bus drivers like him. Manila traffic has become notorious for rough driving because of them. They stop wherever they please, they drive dangerously, they are always overtaking other vehicles, and they are involved in many accidents. Scores of people have been injured and killed because of them.

Bad drivers account for approximately 85 percent of vehicular accidents per year, according to the DOTC. Along Commonwealth Avenue, 57 percent of accidents are caused by bad driving, according to a study by the University of the Philippines-National Center for Transportation Studies.

These bad bus drivers must be taken off the roads. Their operators’ franchises and their licenses must be subjected to a thorough inspection. The government must look into the recruitment system of bus drivers and their training.

Recently, the Department of Transportation and Communication had asked the help of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to help retrain and accredit drivers, particularly the bus drivers. A mandatory cyclical training for all PUV drivers must be strictly enforced to find out if they are really fit to transport people safely.

There is clearly a need for a change in the mindset of bus drivers, to sensitize them to their role in preventing accidents. They should have concern and compassion for fellow road users. Any number of measures and safety programs meant to enforce road rules will not yield results if bus drivers stay with the same mentality where, in a bid to race against time and competitors, they reduce the value of human lives. Bus drivers must practice a culture of compliance in the interest of their safety as well as that of fellow road users.

Traffic enforcers must also be authorized to conduct random roadside drug-testing using drug kits to ensure that these bus drivers are not driving under the influence of illegal drugs.

The government should also consider abolishing the quota system of bus operators that, according to a local transport union, forces drivers to produce P15,000 in fares within 18 hours of operation.

This quota system puts bus drivers under tremendous pressure. That’s why they drive like jeepney drivers do. They compete for passengers and race to get as many trips in a day as possible, because they are paid in commissions instead of regular salaries. It’s a flawed remuneration system that must also be addressed by government regulators.

The government must require that bus drivers be paid as salaried employees, and not paid based on the number of passengers they pick up. This would complement our efforts to bring back decent, sensible and disciplined driving among bus drivers. It would be easier for the government to require these buses to work on schedules and stop only at designated bus stops if their drivers are not too harried looking for passengers because their pay depends on it. –ERNESTO F. HERRERA, Manila TImes


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