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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

KMB helps its drivers cheat on training tests, union leader tells Independent Review Committee on Hong Kong’s Franchised Bus Service

‘Every one gets full marks, it’s not ideal,’ union leader tells panel, adding 90 per cent of drivers also are drowsy while on duty

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 6:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2018, 9:23pm

KMB drivers were given answers to pre- and in-service training tests from instructors, a union leader from the company told Hong Kong’s bus safety committee on Tuesday.

Kowk Chi-shing, who leads the 900-member KMB Employees Union, did not specify which tests both rookie and veteran drivers were given the answers to, and it was unclear whether drivers had to pass the exams to be considered road ready.

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“Everybody gets full marks, it is not ideal,” Kwok told the Independent Review Committee on Hong Kong’s Franchised Bus Service, which was formed to examine the industry after a KMB double-decker toppled over while taking a turn in Tai Po in February, killing 19 people and injuring more than 60.

He also told the committee that 90 per cent of drivers were drowsy behind the wheel.

According to documents submitted to the committee by KMB, new recruits at KMB are required to take part in an 18-day programme, which includes training in driving, stress management and passenger handling.

The company also offers remedial training for drivers who were convicted of careless driving and those who were off duty for 30 days or more.

Speaking after the morning session of the hearing, Kwok said drivers were given answers to tests in both pre- and in-service training.

“If the attitude stays the same, [such training] would be meaningless,” he said.

His comments were made a day before two KMB assistant managers were expected to appear before the committee.

KMB did not return a request for comment.

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During the committee’s ninth hearing since May, Kwok was also asked if his union supported adding a monitoring devices on buses to alert drivers when they appear to have lost focus or were dozing off.

Kwok said some drivers would be stressed if they were monitored at all times, adding that “90 per cent” of bus drivers “doze off” at work due to long working hours.

Following February’s deadly bus wreck, the Transport Department cut maximum hours drivers could work in a day from 14 to 10, and reduced driving hours from 11 to 10.

Bus companies, however were allowed to give drivers “special shift” duty, which involved working up to 14 hours a day, with a mandatory three-hour break in between.

When pressed by committee chairman Justice Michael Lunn to qualify his statement, Kwok said: “Not actually falling asleep, but their eyelids could close, I won’t lie to you.”

If such a device was added, drivers’ working hours should be reduced, he said.

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In other testimony on Tuesday, at least three union representatives told the committee that they face frequent verbal abuse from passengers.

Tracy Yip Wai-lum of the Monthly-Rated Drivers Union said: “No one can help you, it has become part of our work.”

The representatives, however, said they rarely reported the verbal abuse to their companies.

Yip, who led a small strike in late February, also recalled an incident in September 2016 when she was attacked by a passenger while on duty.

According to KMB’s record of the incident, Yip’s right arm was hurt.

The passenger was charged with common assault, but was acquitted due to lack of evidence, Yip said.

Meanwhile, the committee said it still had not seen guidelines from the Transport Department aimed at aligning training programmes throughout the city’s five bus companies, despite requesting a copy. Four of the city’s five bus unions had also said they had not been given the guidelines.

The committee, which does not have the power to summon witnesses or request documents from relevant parties, will make recommendations on safety measures to Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.