Wednesday, December 8

‘More young bus drivers or we go bust’

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SIBU: Public bus operators are appealing to the government to provide aid to enable more young people obtain bus driving licences.

Sarawak Bus Transport Companies Association chairman Lau Khing Seng said getting such licences involved exorbitant fees, and if nothing were to be done about this, the majority of bus drivers in the next five to 10 years would be ‘old’ ones.

This, he cautioned, would not augur well for public transportation, on which people from the lower to middle income groups still relied.

Lau told The Borneo Post yesterday that getting a bus driving licence cost between RM5,000 and RM6,000.

This is because anyone keen to get a bus driving licence would first need to get a lorry driving licence.

Getting each of these licences cost more than RM2,000, he said.

“It is very difficult to hire bus drivers these days. Those aged between 40 and 60 years make up the bulk of the current pool of drivers.

“In the next five to 10 years’ time, there may no longer be any new (young) drivers.

“Compounding to this, the older drivers are retiring, and this further depletes the already limited pool of bus drivers.”

Lau said without new drivers, it was difficult for bus companies to pick and choose good ones.

“Our fervent hope is for the government to provide some form of assistance to lighten the burden of prospective candidates wishing to obtain bus licences.”

Lau said their counterparts in the peninsula are facing the same problem. Recently, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communication Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong suggested that driving institutes set up a loan system for those wanting to obtain bus and lorry driving licences due to the high fees involved.

Manyin believed this would solve the current shortage of bus and lorry drivers, which could affect the economy in the long-run if not resolved immediately.

Meanwhile, Lau said over the last 10 years, about 10 bus companies in the state had closed shop due to difficulties in hiring drivers and rampant ‘kereta sapu’ activities.

Business dropped by some 50 per cent, making it difficult to cover escalating operating costs.

The affected companies in Kuching, Sibu, Lawas, Mukah and Bintulu were mostly plying urban routes, he said.

On drivers’ pay, he revealed they were paid between RM1,500 and RM3,000 per month.

“The good ones are given target bonuses.”