|Editorial Comment: Compulsory bus drivers database a welcome idea|
|Wednesday, 13 June 2012 21:52|
We suspect that even some of the drivers who escape with admission of guilt fines also escape the checks made by a careful bus owner.
Since most bus accidents are caused or made far worse by bad driving and refusal to follow legal rules and company regulations, this database is needed.
Every road user knows that speed rules, overtaking rules, and loading regulations are frequently broken.
A good bus owner will try and stop this, and disciplinary action will often lead to the driver being dismissed.
But he then leaves out a crucial line or two in his CV and gets another job, while the original owner hires someone else’s reject.
Once this database is operational that will be impossible.
This will start putting Zimbabwe into the same position as exists in many other countries.
Throughout Europe, for example, driving a bus is a first class job.
But all drivers are listed and one even medium error means you go off the list, temporarily or permanently, and a bad error means a new career.
This is why it is so rare to hear of a European bus crash.
Bus drivers there have zero blood alcohol, never speed, never overload, never take risks, and are highly trained.
But the actions of the big bus operators can only be a start. They own the big long-distance buses; others own the companies with purely internal routes and a multitude of people own the kombis.
So a black-listed driver is not going to leave driving as a career. He simply joins a small company, or more likely, rents a kombi by the day.
It will be fairly easy to bring the smaller operators of rural services into the system.
The Cross Border operators may need an associate membership or something similar to do this; in any case they will want other bus drivers in their database, and no doubt even a start-up will want to know just who is standing in the queue seeking a job.
So there is a good chance that within a few years we will have a proper system of listing all bus drivers on inter-city, rural and international routes.
And the sooner the better, so we appreciate and support the proposals of the Cross Border Bus Operators Association to make at least the drivers’ database compulsory.
Membership of an association can only be compulsory if this association is obliged to accept any applicant willing to follow the rules. It cannot be used to block competition.
But that will still leave the kombis, with the worst drivers and the worst accident records.
Here more than a voluntary association is needed.
Ownership of kombis is spread over hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people and the system of drivers renting a bus for the day makes it difficult to force owners to accept responsibility.
So long as the driver does not actually smash up the bus, few owners care what he does.
Laws could be adjusted to make owners take more responsibility for vetting drivers who hire their buses, but to be fair to owners this will require a database. And someone needs to run this. The owners are unlikely to be either willing or able.
Perhaps the main bus drivers database could be extended, or perhaps municipalities or the Government will have to do the job.
But just as we need to get bad drivers out of large buses, so we need to get them out of kombis.
All that happens at the moment is that they pay a small fine, in the tiny minority of cases they are caught since the police simply cannot post a policeman in every kombi.
But if every breach of the law was listed, then police actions would have some effect.
Owners might well blanche at renting a bus to a driver who was not permitted, for a period or permanently, from ever driving a bus and kombi drivers might well be tamed if they knew that breaking the law several times a trip could see them on the side of the road selling tomatoes for a living.
So the proposals of the Cross Border Bus Operators Association are just a start. A lot more needs to be done to develop their ideas and extend them to the cities.