Accidents involving SPTC buses due to human error, says minister


Expressing concern over the situation, the Minister for Home Affairs and Transport said the SPTC, in its effort to prevent more accidents, is reviewing and strengthening different measures which guide its operations.

He further added that depending on the severity of the accident, a driver is disciplined accordingly through counselling, is given a warning and could be compelled to pay for costs of repairs on the buses.

Minister Morgan gave those details when answering a question by elected member for Bel Air Nichole Barbé.

She had asked the minister to explain some of the concrete actions that the SPTC is planning to take to minimise future accidents involving its buses and action the corporation takes against drivers if the causes of accidents are proven to be a result of human errors.

Minister Morgan explained that some of the measures include introducing a refresher training programme aimed at giving the drivers more skills so they can continue to ensure security and comfort of passengers.

“The training, which will eventually cover all drivers, started on May 6 and to date 42 drivers have already gone through the process and the SPTC expects to complete the programme over a period of 10 weeks,” Minister Morgan added.

He further pointed out that the training programme is expected to help the SPTC identify other challenges and difficulties drivers face on the roads and seek ways to address them.

“The SPTC has also reviewed the programme of its bus driving instructors whereby from now on they would have to carry out a certain number of onboard checks and assessments on specific routes and take corrective measures to ensure drivers are following good driving practices,” explained Minister Morgan.

He further explained that the recent cases of accidents have also forced the corporation to review the criteria for drivers licenced to carry 50 passengers and more.

“Following this review, drivers will now start by driving small 30-passenger capacity buses for a two-year period before they could apply for a licence to drive larger-capacity buses and qualify to upgrade their licence. To do that they should have a clean record of neither accidents nor other disciplinary offences committed during that period,” said Minister Morgan.

In 2011, the SPTC paid a total of R1.886 million in compensation to commuters, in 2012 a total of R351,000 was paid and up to now this year a total of over R108,000 in compensation has been paid.
With regard to the condition of the buses themselves, Minister Morgan noted that for some time now the SPTC has put in place a comprehensive system for repairing its buses.
“Considerable investments have been made to replace tools and buy more modern equipment so as to ensure higher quality and standard of repairs the mechanics carry out, thus improving the security of commuters,” noted the minister.

He went on to note that all SPTC buses are subject to a compulsory routine servicing every month during which their brakes are also tested.

“There are in place well-established procedures which ensure that buses leaving the workshop meet all the mechanical standards,” added Minister Morgan.

The SPTC is also reviewing its maintenance programme to ensure accidents caused as a result of mechanical faults remain as low as possible while at the same time the corporation is gradually replacing older buses by new ones with the average age of SPTC buses at present being eight years.

In its effort to continuously ensure public safety, the SPTC is always educating the public and calling on commuters to report cases of speeding, negligent driving and other irresponsible behaviour by its drivers.

They can do so by calling the SPTC hotline or by coming in person to see its communication officers at the SPTC head office at the Victoria terminal.

The GPS system introduced in 2011 is also helping the corporation detect speeding and drivers caught are dealt with appropriately.

Minister Morgan said that since January 2011 to last month, 114 drivers have been disciplined for speeding, five are on final warning and one had his contract terminated last month.

Other than these measures Minister Morgan said in August last year the SPTC introduced breathalyser tests for all its employees and to date 11 workers have been disciplined and five have had their employment contract terminated as a result of being under the influence of alcohol during working hours.

To continue to ensure public’s and commuters’ safety, the SPTC early last month also introduced a compulsory drug screening test for all drivers and mechanics.

With regard to the health conditions of its drivers, when it suspects there may be any concerns, the SPTC seeks a medical report from the health ministry and if any concern about the health condition is revealed the driver will be prevented from driving until his heath is restored and proven through a reviewed medical test.

Meanwhile, the corporation has since introduced a series of training programmes for its employees which include an online e-learning programme for its mechanics.