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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Driving course and fixed monthly pay for bus drivers sought
Writer: Isagani C. Yambot Jr., MRS-PRIB
21 May 2011 09:43:26 AM

Only accredited drivers will soon be allowed to drive public utility buses in Metro Manila and in the provinces under a bill which will also require bus operators to pay them a fixed monthly salary.

Rep. Mark Aeron Sambar (Party-list, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta) filed House Bill 4459, saying the government should adopt urgent measures to prevent the unabated road accidents involving buses.

Under the bill to be known as the Competence Accreditation Program and Minimum Wage for Bus Drivers Act of 2011, drivers will get proper training and subjected to an accreditation program before being allowed to ply the streets.

"Bus drivers are notorious for reckless driving habits of swerving their way through busy traffic or careening through open highways," Sambar said.

Sambar noted that passenger safety has become secondary for bus drivers whose incomes depend on the number of trips made and passengers ferried during the day.

He said in a developing country such as the Philippines, commuters would rather take the lower fare rates of provincial buses over the more expensive option of air travel. Thus, passengers are left at the mercy of bus drivers who are sometimes ill equipped to drive their buses for several hours straight, he added.

"The State should improve the knowledge and skills of bus drivers before they start driving professionally and improve road safety through better qualified drivers," Sambar said.

Under bill, potential bus drivers should pass the theory and hazard perception tests, practical driving test and driver accreditation for professional competence.

The bill mandates the Director General of the Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to develop a certification and training program for bus drivers to ensure the competence and professionalism of the sector.

"A driver can only be qualified to drive a public utility bus if he is issued a Driver Accreditation of Professional Competence," Sambar said.

The bill further provides that aside from the requirements of obtaining a professional driver's license from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), only bus drivers with TESDA/DOTC accreditation shall be allowed to drive public utility buses, after three years from the approval of this bill.

Citing statistics, Sambar said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recorded a total of 4,825 bus accidents, or an average of 13 incidents per day in 2008.

Sambar said some 1,488 bus related accidents were recorded by the MMDA in the first five months of 2009. A study by the DOTC showed that 85% of road accidents are human errors.

Earlier, Reps. Teddy Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna) and Rafael Mariano (Party-list, Anak Pawis) have also filed a bill requiring bus operators to pay their drivers fixed monthly salaries.

Casiño said poor working conditions and unfair boundary or commission-based systems are at the root of these accidents.

"Drivers and conductors are pushed to compete with other buses to get more passengers. They are often forced to man graveyard shifts, with some driving for almost 20 hours a day," Casiño said.

Casiño said the salary of bus drivers and conductors is based on their percentage of bus tickets sold to passengers. "This is the reason why buses are running wild in the streets of Metro Manila. The more passengers they pick up the more tickets they sell," Casiño said.

At present, Casiño said the bus owners or operators are the ones who set the commission rate for drivers and conductors.

"Not meeting the quota for the day would deprive them of the coveted bonus or worse, half of the cost of gasoline will be deducted from their collections and their commission would be computed based on the remaining amount," Casiño said.

Casiño said that if the drivers get a fixed salaries, "there is no need for them to race with their competitors in the streets."