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Holistic approach needed to clean up commercial driving, not threats to take licences away

Holistic approach needed to clean up commercial driving, not threats to take licences away

By Y S CHAN

HEALTH and safety practices in the trucking industry in particular and the transport industry as a whole must be overhauled, sooner rather than later.

Issuing warnings to offenders in the industry who cause accidents or suspending licences is not the answer to solving the problems and a more holistic approach is necessary to tackle the elephant in the room.

But it’s not just the drivers and their employers who needed to be kicked into action. The government must bear some responsibility for the dire situtation that has wreaked havoc on the nation’s highways.

For example, another area of importance but totally neglected is the renewal of PSV licences.

Many commercial drivers do not undergo medical examinations but instead buy pre-signed forms for renewal.

The Road Transport Department (JPJ) has rightfully stipulated that PSV drivers must pass a basic health test annually but allow it to be easily circumvented.

As a result, we have many commercial vehicle drivers which include goods carrying vehicles, such as lorries, driving around like a time bomb.

On Jan 7, Bernama published a report “PSV, GDL Driving Licences Can Be Withdrawn If Found Guilty Of Falsifying Medical Records”.

After a bus accident at Genting Sempah on Oct 29, 2010 which killed seven passengers and injured 20, I wrote “Sue company, not driver” (The Star, Nov 4, 2010).

I brought up the question of medical checks for commercial drivers back then and in numerous other writings but over the years, JPJ did not respond to any of my published letters on the fraudulent renewals of GDL and PSV licences.

One of the letters was on sleep disorders “Focus on health of commercial vehicle drivers” (malaysianmedicine.blogspot.com, Feb 27, 2012).

I pointed out the need for rehabilitation programmes for unhealthy commercial drivers, as withdrawing the GDL and PSV licences of all unfit drivers would cripple the transport industry and the nation’s economy.

Airline pilots keep themselves healthy, knowing very well that their flying careers depends on

it.

On the other hand, commercial vehicles drivers are easily one of the unhealthiest groups of workers, sitting behind the wheel for hours.

During breaks, many gorge on food, indulge in tobacco, drugs or alcohol, and develop diabetes and hypertension.

Those who are healthy but skipped their medical examinations may lose their vocational licences if they used runners to renew them with forged certificates.

Such practices have gone on for decades and a strict clampdown overnight will throw thousands of commercial drivers out of their jobs and bring great hardships to their families.

The authorities should move to rehabilitate drivers by introducing more training and education programmes for commercial drivers while itself performing its role as regulator with greater intent.

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