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As I See It

Cancel franchises of bus firms in many mishaps

/ 02:18 AM December 20, 2013

The LTO (Land Transportation Office), the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) and the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) are as guilty as the driver and operator of the Don Mariano bus that plunged off the Skyway last Monday, killing 18 persons and injuring 16 others. Had the LTO been doing its job, that bus with worn-out tires and defective brakes would not have been allowed out of its garage. Had the LTFRB been doing its job, it would not have issued a franchise to the Lim family, which has several franchises under different names and a total of 400 buses. That’s too many for anybody to operate efficiently. Had the DOLE been doing its job, that driver would not have been allowed to drive for 19 continuous hours.

The LTO is supposed to inspect all vehicles, to make sure they are roadworthy, before having them registered, and periodically after that. If it had been inspecting the Don Mariano buses regularly, it would have spotted their many defects. The LTO is scrambling to inspect the buses only after the Skyway accident. It found defects in 36 of the buses. But by then it was too late for the 18 who died in the accident.

The DOLE is supposed to have issued orders to bus companies to pay their drivers fixed monthly salaries in place of the boundary system. It turned out that the Don Mariano company has not obeyed the DOLE order and still operates under the boundary system.

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Under this system, the driver and conductor pay a fixed rental (the boundary) to the bus company. What they earn after that is their take-home pay. The bus operator does not care what the driver does as long as he meets his boundary.

To be able to earn, first, the boundary and, second, his take-home pay, the driver is forced to drive recklessly and violate traffic rules so that he can beat the competition to the passengers.

The DOLE is also supposed to have issued orders that drivers should not be made to work for more than eight hours a day. That driver in the Skyway accident was said to have been driving for 19 hours! No wonder he had that accident. They are testing him for traces of alcohol or drugs. But a driver does not have to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs to drive as if he were drunk. If he had been driving for 19 hours, he would be worse than drunk. Why did he do that? Because of the boundary system.

To be able to earn his take-home pay after the boundary, the driver is forced to drive long hours. He is also forced to make more trips. Each additional trip means more money. And to be able to make more trips, the driver goes over the speed limit. The driver in the Skyway accident is said to have been speeding.

A nurse who thinks she must have taken the same Don Mariano bus from Novaliches told me that the driver was really speeding. Was it the same driver, or do all Don Mariano bus drivers drive like that?

As for the LTFRB, it has been issuing too many franchises so that the competition among buses and jeepneys become too much. Many buses go over the speed limit to overtake other buses and beat them to the waiting passengers.

Nowhere is this overabundance of franchises evident than on Edsa. Buses crawl bumper to bumper on that highway, all of them almost empty. How can they earn enough at that rate? Either by making more trips or by overcharging their passengers (most likely the latter).

If the buses operate with so few passengers, burning expensive fuel all the time, the companies would have been bankrupt a long time ago and Edsa and other streets would have been free of those long lines of buses. But since they continue operating, obviously they are not bankrupt. So how do they get the extra money? By overcharging the passengers.

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Yes, the few passengers in each bus are paying for all the empty seats without them knowing it. Who made this happen?  The LTFRB, by approving the high passenger rates demanded by the bus companies.

Isn’t the LTFRB supposed to regulate passenger rates? Isn’t it supposed to investigate and compute to make sure the rates are fair and the passengers are not overcharged? Yes, but it is said that in the LTFRB, as in the LTO, you can get anything if the price is right.

How can we decongest Edsa and other streets? By issuing less franchises and canceling some of those already issued. Obviously, the LTFRB cannot do that without due process. So why not cancel the franchises of bus companies whose drivers are involved in many accidents or are arrested for many traffic violations? The franchise of the Don Mariano bus company should have been cancelled outright instead of simply suspended for only one month. When the month is over, the same deadly buses and drivers will be out on the streets. It should be like baseball: Three accidents and you’re out.

Bus companies are supposed to train and discipline their drivers well. If they don’t, they would be equally guilty of the deaths, injuries and damage to property as their drivers. In accidents, only the drivers are usually charged; the owners and operators are not. The operators of the Don Mariano bus company have been included in the charges for the Skyway accident only because the bus was not well maintained. Otherwise, they would have gotten away scot-free.

Discipline the transport operators and they will be forced to discipline their drivers.

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KAPIHAN NOTES: There will be no Kapihan sa Manila at Diamond Hotel on two successive Mondays, Dec. 23 and 30. The next Kapihan will be in the New Year.

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TAGS: Department of Labor and Employment, DOLE, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Land Transportation Office, LTFRB, LTO, road accident, Skyway accident
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