Authorities urged to implement safety measures, enhance driver training and monitoring while involving passengers in efforts

PETALING JAYA: Travelling between major cities by express bus is popular among students, senior citizens and migrants due to the low cost, WiFi, power outlets and comfortable seating.

However, six bus crashes throughout the country between January and May have raised concerns.

The latest crash on May 31 near Gopeng in Perak took four lives and injured five.

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia third year biomedical engineering student Nabihah Hussein, 23, said she relies on express buses for long distance transport.

“I understand express bus drivers have schedules to meet but it is frightening to note the number of crashes involving them.

“I have lodged multiple complaints through the bus operator hotline whenever drivers attempt to dangerously pass other vehicles.

“They do this at high speeds and on narrow roads, especially at night. It is very scary but nothing is being done about it.”

Universiti Putra Malaysia Road Safety Research Centre head Assoc Prof Dr Law Teik Hua said the safety records of express buses and passenger protection measures are under scrutiny.

He said incidents involving tyre blowouts, driver fatigue and poor vehicle maintenance highlight potential risks.

“Traffic offences committed by bus drivers, such as overtaking on narrow roads and speeding, have left passengers distressed and fearing for their lives.”

On the Gopeng crash, he said: “It is shocking that the 38-year-old bus driver had 15 traffic summonses, including two for road crashes, while the bus itself had 38 outstanding summonses.

“Reckless drivers pose a danger to public safety. This prompts significant inquiries into the efficiency and vigilance of express bus companies.”

Law said other crashes have resulted in injuries and fatalities in the past year, leading to calls for stricter safety regulations.

According to police Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department data, road crashes increased by about 10% from 545,588 cases in 2022 to 598,635 in 2023.

“The Transport Ministry said road crashes involving buses only account for about 1.6% of the total road crashes over the years, but this does not negate the need to raise safety standards following consecutive express bus crashes.”

He said while some companies have addressed this by assigning two drivers for long distance routes, there is a need for mandatory rest periods as a safety measure for those who drive alone.

“Having two drivers allows one to drive while the other rests. This reduces the risk of fatigue related crashes and ensures the bus can maintain its schedule,” he said, adding that it is important to address traffic offences by implementing routine inspections on the speed limiters installed in buses.

“For instance, advanced driver assistance systems are in use and provide drivers with real time feedback while collision avoidance systems help prevent road crashes.

“Some companies have installed telematics systems, which is a method to monitor cars, trucks, equipment and other assets using GPS technology and on-board diagnostics to monitor driver behaviour and bolster safety protocols.”

Law also said several challenges hinder the full implementation of such measures, including the high costs associated with installing advanced technologies, resistance to change from drivers and bus companies, and difficulties in enforcing safety regulations.

He said adopting higher safety measures calls for authorities to address factors that contribute to road crashes, implement effective safety measures and technologies, enhance driver training and monitoring, and involve passengers in safety efforts.

“By taking these comprehensive steps, the safety of express bus travel could be significantly improved.”