Rural Transit told to reduce drivers’ work hours to avoid accidents

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/3 Nov) – Limiting the driving hours of any driver to four continuous hours was on top of the eight suggestions embodied in the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s resolution offering measures and practices to the Rural Transit of Mindanao Inc. and other bus companies.

In a resolution passed last October 26, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, at the end of its public hearings on vehicular accidents involving buses, urged the bus companies to take the measures to reduce the occurrence of vehicular accidents in the province.

The first suggestion, according to the SP Resolution No. 2011-073 authored by first district board members Clive Quiño and Jay Albarece, emanates from the “fatigue kills” campaign of the International Transport Federation and the International Labor Organization Hours of Work and Rest Periods (Road Transport) Convention, 1979 (no. 153).

The series of hearings, attended by representatives and officers of the RTMI, Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the Land Transportation Office, was triggered by Quiño’s privilege speech on an accident on September 6 involving an RTMI bus that killed one and injured two employees of the local government of Manolo Fortich.

Albarece told MindaNews Wednesday that RTMI liaison officer Pio Banaag, who represented the bus company in one of the hearings, said their driving time depends on the distance of the trip. From Cagayan de Oro, destinations range from close to four hours (Valencia City) to eight hours (Davao City).

Mark Anthony Hello, one of RTMI’s legal counsels, said their firm is not violating the rule because it has mandatory stopovers. For the eight-hour Cagayan de Oro-to-Davao trip, he said, the bus stops in Valencia City and in Salawagan, Quezon town.

Hello claimed they have not yet received a copy of the resolution.

The provincial board urged RTMI and other bus firms to impose sanctions on bus drivers reaching their destinations earlier than the prescribed travel time to discourage over speeding.

RTMI was urged to establish an in-house driving safety and proficiency school similar to the one maintained by companies like Del Monte Philippines, Inc.

Qualifications and quality control of its drivers emerged as one of the dominant issues raised against RTMI during the hearings.

The provincial board urged RTMI to strictly implement mandatory regular and random drug and alcohol testing for drivers. During the hearing, Banaag told board members they have stopped holding random drug tests among employees because of resistance from the workers.

Hello said via telephone that the workers’ union has lobbied against it to prevent workers from “self incrimination.”

But he said that they will definitely retain mandatory drug testing for drivers in their new contract.

Provincial board members told RTMI officials in the hearing that being in the public transport business involving public safety, they should include an anti-drugs policy in the company’s rules.

RTMI was asked to provide large and readable hotline numbers for passenger complaints and suggestions at the rear of every bus to “improve the driver-performance feedback mechanism.”

They were likewise asked to provide name patches for drivers and conductors and to reserve seats for persons with disabilities, breastfeeding mothers, senior citizens and other passengers with special needs. The resolution included suggestion to have fare discounts privileges to senior citizens and students, which sometimes is not observed.

As of last September, RTMI buses figured in 32 vehicular accidents in Bukidnon alone, leaving a total of nine persons killed and 13 others injured, in what Quiño said is “becoming very alarming.”

Quiño cited the report from Bukidnon provincial police director Rustom C. Duran. In his response to the SP’s query, the police chief said that most of the accidents happened in Bukidnon’s two cities – nine in Valencia and eight in Malaybalay

Five of the cases occurred in Manolo Fortich, including the case involving the local government unit’s rescue team. Three of the cases were reported in Sumilao, and one each in Kalilangan and Impasug-ong.

Over nine months, these cases claimed a total of 22 victims, with nine deaths.

Quiño stressed that what is shocking about the cases is that more than half of the cases happened in the cities’ poblacion areas where there is supposed to be a speed limit of 40 kilometers per hour.

In most of these accidents, the drivers are subjected to disciplinary action and, in habitual cases, dismissed, said RTMI’s Banaag. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)