SPEEDING night-time drivers on the payroll of triad gangsters have been blamed for the rising number of crashes involving public minibuses. Operators have admitted they have to employ what one would only describe as 'unruly' drivers at night - many of whom operate at breakneck speed to make more money. A police source said: 'They haven't got triad printed on their foreheads, but we know many night-time minibuses are controlled by these elements. From time to time, there will be covert operations trying to weed them out.' An owners' representative for the 1,000-strong Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Public and Maxicab Light Bus Merchants' United Association said an attempt to ban speeding drivers had proved impossible to enforce. 'We can't be like big bus companies and have regular plain-clothes supervisors. We do try to play a part but it's impossible,' association chairman Tse Fai said. He was responding to a recent police warning issued over speeding. Night-time minibus drivers clear about $300 a shift after paying $300 to hire the vehicle. Mr Tse said many drivers sped to boost their income. He described night drivers as 'special'. 'Night-shift drivers often have a dodgy background. We've tried not to rent minibuses to the unruly,' he said but declined to elaborate. 'Not just anyone can come in as a driver. Within a few days an outsider will get into trouble. No one other than these 'special' drivers can drive at night,' Mr Tse said. Chief Inspector Josephine Lau Wai-mun of traffic branch headquarters would not comment on Mr Tse's allegations. The Police Public Relations Bureau also declined to respond. But one police officer said it was common knowledge that many night-time minibus operations were controlled by 'a small group of people'. 'Go and see for yourselves and you will find many stations are watched [by gang members],' he said. Nine suspected triads were arrested in February for allegedly extorting money and blackmailing drivers to use a red minibus route set up by gang members between Wan Chai and Mongkok. Joining fees are believed to be $30,000 per driver plus monthly payments of several thousand dollars. Drivers at a minibus station in Wan Chai refused to answer questions about the allegations. The police appealed to the public to report speeding drivers after a deadly crash in the early hours of March 10, when a Mongkok-bound minibus collided with a private car at the junction of Tai Chung Kiu Road and Sha Tin Rural Committee Road in Sha Tin. Cheng Chi-hung, 22, who was in the front seat of the minibus, died in the crash and 13 people were seriously injured. Both vehicles were believed to have been travelling faster than the 50km/h limit. 'They are one of the major forms of transport, especially at night. Given the bigger number of passengers they can carry, we are highly concerned about this category of drivers,' Ms Lau said. During the first quarter of this year, there were 283 recorded cases of speeding minibuses, with 86 drivers exceeding the speed limit by between 15km/h and 30km/h. Four vehicles travelled 30km/h to 45km/h above the limit. Ms Lau appealed to passengers to report speeding to the Transport Complaints Unit on the hotline number 2889 9999. She said passengers should demand to get off the vehicle if they thought they were in danger.