Fears over drivers' hours
Lai Ying-kit and Austin Chiu
This week's accident involving two buses in a tunnel, which injured 25 people, has raised concerns about the drivers' work-scheduling system.
Two KMB vehicles collided in Shing Mun Tunnel, Sha Tin, at about 11am on Tuesday. Both vehicles were on their way to Nina Tower in Tsuen Wan.
Police said the driver of a route 73X bus stopped his vehicle in the tunnel, and a route 278X bus rammed it from behind. The 73X bus had reportedly been forced to stop by a private vehicle that had broken down in the tunnel.
The two drivers and 23 passengers, aged between five and 70, were hurt.
Both drivers passed breathalyser tests.
Most of the injured suffered head injuries. The injured were sent to hospital.
Seven people were still in hospital early yesterday.
The accident is the second case involving buses during the Lunar New Year holiday.
It raised concerns about the bus company's work-scheduling system for holidays, when many drivers are off. KMB offers a bonus to drivers who do not take leave during the holiday, in order to keep bus services running. But this has encouraged some drivers who have already been working long hours to take on even more duties, said lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council transport panel.
According to media reports, the driver of the 278X bus might have been exhausted because of not resting enough after working continuously and attending festive activities since Friday.
Bus drivers spend an average of 11 hours on roads per day. Some even work up to 14 hours.
Cheng said the core issue related to the salaries of drivers. 'Bus drivers have to work long hours, but their salary is relatively low,' he said. 'Some choose to work on holidays in order to earn extra money, even if they are exhausted.'
Acting transport commissioner Albert Yuen Lap-pun said the department had ordered the bus company to submit reports on the accident and would ask for a review of its work-scheduling system. He said the department would also meet bus companies in the city to discuss arrangements for working hours, holidays and drivers' rest times.
A KMB spokeswoman said there were guidelines to keep drivers away from long and continuous work under the bonus system.