Drivers a law unto themselves
The private bus drivers are a headache not only for two-wheelers and pedestrians but also for bus owners themselves.
When City Express spoke to a few owners in the city, many of them expressed helplessness even when their buses were increasingly getting involved in accidents.
According M B Sathyan, president, Private Bus Owners Association, they are forced to keep mum as there is an acute shortage of bus drivers.
“There are several buses which are in garage owing to lack of drivers. If a owner speaks harshly to any driver who causes an accident, he will quit the job. He will be hired the next day by any other owner. So, the majority of owners fear their employees,” he said.
“Bus owners compete among themselves to hire a driver and provide them maximum pay,” Satyan added.
Meanwhile, the Motor Vehicles Department officials say that even when a bus is seized for flouting rules, its driver is not punished.
“When a bus is caught for rash driving or speeding, we fine the vehicle. It is the owner who pays the fine. When a vehicle gets involved in a mishap that causes deaths, it is the owners who take care of the legal proceedings. The drivers have nothing to lose. The owners extend full support to the drivers,” said an official. Muhammad Rafeeq, Assistant Commissioner, Kochi Traffic Police, said the time schedule of the buses was another reason for competitive driving.
“Buses from Aluva leave at a gap of two minutes. In other places, buses leave at a gap of 15 minutes. So, the drivers speed up to get the edge. If the bus which starts later overtakes the other, they start up a fight,” he said.