Hong Kong’s bus drivers given 1,000 warnings about speeding in past six months, but union claims faulty detection system is to blame
- KMB Employees Union calls on bus operator to withdraw letters, saying new GPS is inaccurate
- Chairman says even if drivers were speeding, the company’s schedule forced them to do so
A bus union has called on KMB to withdraw about 1,000 warning letters to its drivers for speeding over the past six months, saying they were wrongly accused because the new detection device was faulty.
While the 1,600-member KMB Employees Union admitted there was a speeding culture among drivers, it blamed the city’s biggest bus operator for the problem, saying the company forced drivers to complete a certain number of trips during a specific schedule.
Safety management at the bus giant, which has about 8,600 drivers, has been in the spotlight after a government-appointed independent review committee made 45 recommendations for overhauling franchised bus operations in the city.
The review was done in the wake of a KMB bus crash that killed 19 people in Tai Po in February last year.
On Thursday, union chairman Kwok Chi-sing said that since July 2018 the bus operator had installed a GPS geo-fencing system for its fleet, replacing the old detection system that gave speed reminders to drivers. The speed limit for buses varies between 50km/h and 70km/h.
“Based on the tests we did, and the drivers’ experience, we conclude that this new GPS system is inaccurate about the speed data with a measurement error of about 20 to 30 per cent,” Kwok said, adding that in some cases the device had issued a signal when the bus was travelling at 40km/h in a 50km/h zone.
“The company has used this new system to accuse about 1,000 drivers of speeding with a warning letter. We believe that it was an attempt to cut costs for their future pay rises and other allowances,” he said.
Kwok said drivers had pointed out the inaccuracy of the new system to the company, but all their calls had fallen on deaf ears.
He admitted, however, that there was a speeding culture among drivers, citing data from the old system, which he said was more accurate – there were 2,795 cases of speeding for more than 30 seconds between February and July last year.
But Kwok blamed the company for the problem.
“The problem of speeding among drivers has existed from day one,” he said. “But this has been caused by the company policy that drivers have to meet the performance of completing five trips within a specific schedule. If they fail to meet their performance targets they will be given verbal warnings or be assigned to other routes.
“Bus drivers have been under huge pressure to meet the targets. They have no choice but to run the risk of speeding.”
However, KMB denied the management of drivers had anything to do with reduction of costs.
“KMB has attached great importance to bus safety and put top priority on the safety of passengers, drivers and road users,” it said.
The company said it had in place a supervision system to monitor the performance of drivers and provide relevant training.
“The management of drivers’ performance is based on safety requirements. It has nothing to do with the operation cost,” it said, adding that there was an appeal channel to deal with staff complaints.
However, the union has threatened to escalate their action and take the issue to the Transport Department if the bus firm fails to withdraw the warning letters.