What Hong Kong bus drivers need is better work conditions
I am writing in response to the article, “KMB calls on Hong Kong government to help pay for anti-drowsy system, other safety upgrades for buses” (May 7).
Franchised bus operators in Hong Kong have taken action to improve safeguards following several serious accidents, including involving double-deckers in Sham Shui Po last September and then in Tai Po on February 10, the city’s deadliest in nearly 15 years.
Issues such as the long shifts of bus drivers, their temperament and the need for speed limits were raised in the wake of those tragedies. Against this backdrop, KMB has called on the government to subsidise a raft of technological initiatives.
It is great to have hi-tech systems in place to ensure driving quality, and this can definitely improve road safety. Technological safeguards listed by KMB in its submission to the Independent Review Committee on Hong Kong’s Franchised Bus Service, appointed in March following the tragedy in Tai Po, include electronic stability programmes to reduce the risk of skidding and rollovers, and speed-limiting devices, as well as an anti-drowsiness system to detect if drivers are fully alert. New World First Bus and Citybus are also considering this measure.
I welcome this initiative from bus companies, as drivers can become tired working long shifts, and it is safer to know if they are fit to be on the road.
However, I believe it is more important to ensure that bus drivers get adequate rest between shifts. Technology can perhaps improve safety, but it cannot really help the drivers, who have long complained about overwork, inadequate rest and low pay.
Drivers stressed out from overwork and a lack of rest are likely to be more error-prone. Bus operators should recruit more drivers, so that existing ones don’t have to take on extra duty, and look into their grievances over work conditions. This is what would be more beneficial to passengers and boost road safety in the long run. This is what the government should focus on.
Kitty Yeung, Tseung Kwan O