Allow bus industry to fix fares, says association
KUALA LUMPUR: BUS industry players should be allowed to fix their fares for the benefit of all, said Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali.
The government should allow fares to be set by market forces, the same way cooking oil, sugar and rice prices had been determined, he said.
“Even the fares for school buses have been de-regulated. We are requesting the government do the same for bus fares, so that we can increase bus drivers’ wages. It would be a win-win situation.
“With increased bus fares, we could also create value-added services for customers, such as Wi-fi connection and more comfortable seats. But, with the fares being last fixed nine years ago, there is nothing much we can do now,” he told the New Straits Times.
When reached for comment on this suggestion, Land Public Transport Commission chief executive officer Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah said he would address the matter during a press conference today.
In Kuantan, Ashfar said training schemes should be introduced for youth and school leavers to overcome the shortage of skilled commercial vehicle drivers.
He said Malaysia needed around 3,000 drivers annually to cater to the transportation industry.
He urged the government to offer free training courses to encourage more youngsters to take up driving as a profession.
He said offering vocational courses to train commercial drivers and covering the entire cost for the driving licences would create a bigger pool of drivers and benefit the industry in the long term.
“The government previously introduced automotive and repair industry training schemes for youth and dropouts. It is high time the government look into offering free courses for commercial drivers, which include teaching (theory stage) to testing (driving stage).
“This will spur more people to take up the courses and earn a living by becoming a skilled commercial vehicle driver. The transportation industry serves as the engine of the country as it involves the movement of people and goods.”
Ashfar said the lack of drivers were faced by tour, school, factory and charter buses, and lorry operators nationwide, which raised concerns that the industry could face a severe driver shortage in the future.
He said the driver shortage was due to several reasons, including high cost to obtain driving licence, which prompted youngsters to stay away; elderly drivers retiring due to age and health factors; and, experienced drivers moving abroad for better pay.
“One third of commercial vehicle drivers in Singapore are Malaysians, who migrated for a better salary.
“Some drivers leave the industry to take up jobs in unrelated fields, including setting up businesses.
“If we can train and have a bigger group of drivers, then operators can be selective and choose only
the best for their companies.
“This will also instil fear in drivers not to take their jobs lightly and ensure that they are focused during the job,” he said, adding that a huge pool of drivers would provide competition and many would be committed.
He said the cost to obtain the licence was not cheap, as one would have to fork out between RM5,000 and RM6,000 to ensure they had secured the Class D, Class E (for heavy vehicles) and Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence or Goods Drivers’ License before securing the job as a bus or lorry driver.
To become a bus driver, one needed to spend between RM2,000 and RM2,500 to obtain a Class D licence, RM1,500 to RM2,000 for a Class E licence and RM1,500 to RM2,000 for a PSV licence.
A lorry operator, who declined to be named, said there seemed to be a lack of interest among Malaysians to work as commercial vehicle drivers unless their families were involved in the transportation business or they were rewarded handsomely.
“Some drivers are selective. If it is driving lorries, then they prefer the air-conditioned or automated-transmission ones.
“When it comes to buses, they prefer express buses due to fewer stops and traffic congestion compared with stage or school buses.
“Revamping the commercial transport industry by offering free courses sponsored by the government in driving institutions and attractive incentives might lure youngsters to take up the job.”