PETALING JAYA: The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) has revoked the licences of the two bus companies involved in the fatal road accidents last month.

The two bus companies involved in horrific crashes along the Simpang Ampat and Genting Sempah, respectfully, had claimed 20 lives between them.

However, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said such action was not in line with finding a long-term solution to the problem.
Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali referred the CVLB's decision to revoke the licences as a much-needed call to raise the need for safety focus within the public transport industry.

"It is a wakeup call to all of them. It shows the government is serious to raise safety levels within the industry.

"I advise all express bus operators and their drivers to buck up and abide by the Safety, Health and Environment code in the future," he told The Malay Mail.

But Ashfar Ali was puzzled by why Syarikat Taipan Suria (MM2H) Sdn Bhd, the company behind the chartered bus crash on Oct 29, escaped harsher action despite being found to have only 13 of its 99 chartered buses approved by CVLB.

It is understood the company surrendered the rights of the other 86 charter buses to a third party for a fee. Not surprisingly, the bus involved in the accident along KM36 of the Karak Highway was outsourced to a third party.

"The authorities must investigate the basis of which the licences were approved to this company. How could they outsource their licences and not get caught?

"I urge the authorities to conduct more rigorous investigations on bus operators from now on."

The Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit Malaysia (TRANSIT) chairman Muhammad Zulkarnain Hamzah said the government's decision to revoke the licences was a knee-jerk reaction.

He felt the tragedies could have been avoided had the government kept an eye on bus operators.

"Recent bus crashes, particularly involving the two companies, could have prevented if the authorities had monitored bus companies consistently.

"You shouldn't wait for fatal bus accidents to act on this matter. Licences granted should be paired with terms and conditions. The government has the right to take strict action should they are not adhered to."

Zulkarnain said the government should immediately team up with regional and local transport authorities to ensure road transport laws and guidelines were obeyed.

"At present, the government are issuing permits and allowing these buses to operate freely.

"Local transport authorities, should it be finally introduced, may be able to put this matter to an end by enforcing the rules which was initially set by the Land Public Transport Commission."

He asked why there was no enforcement of safety features which were supposed to have been equipped on express buses.

"Safety features, such as black boxes, speed-limiters and seatbelts, are all compulsory in other countries.

"Why can't such safety devices be installed here? While TRANSIT members are pleased to hear the Parliament finally debated and came up with resolution on the recent deadly bus accidents, we only wonder why it has taken so long for these problems to be taken to the Parliament.

"Unless more constructive measures are taken to recover confidence in our public buses, such as making available to the public the summary of bus licence holders’ performance indicators and results, the licence revocation measure will be seen only as a knee-jerk reaction.

"Even the CVLB’s website does not have information on safety audit management to the public."

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah, said the government was "only playing to the gallery" and merely answering demands without finding a long-term solution to the problem.

"This decision is very much impulsive. It may just work in silencing the public for a short while, but it does nothing to find a permanent solution towards speeding buses or its careless operators.

"What is the root problem behind all of this? Are the bus drivers speeding ferociously to complete a large number of trips when they shouldn't be?"

Although ordinary consumers may view the government's licence revocation as the right response, Sha'ani said many remained skeptical whether the link between speeding buses and fatal highway crashes would be broken for good.

"Until a proper solution is met, more and more people will avoid using public transport given the situation the industry is in today.

"It's not about adding more buses on the road or building more highways. We must look to the management issues and address the root of the problem."