Transport owners say they will likely start working on implementing the prime minister’s six-point directive to ensure road safety after Eid-ul-Azha. They think this should be done through public-private partnerships—which will take more time.
Following a spate of road accidents, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on June 25, issued the directives to bring back discipline to the transport sector.
The directives include making arrangements for alternative drivers of inter-district buses, limiting driving time to five- hours, and constructing restrooms for transport staff – and service centres – at convenient locations along highways.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, transport operators say they are willing to comply with the directives, but no visible progress has yet been made to implement them one-and-a-half months on from the issuance of the directives.
Hanif Enterprise Chairman Md Kafil Uddin said they cannot start implementing the directives with short notice, before Eid, and without public-private partnerships.
Shyamoli Paribahan Managing Director (MD) Ramesh Chandra Ghosh said the owners are keen to follow the directives but are not sure how to implement them—as constructing restrooms along highways is a long-term process.
“Considering all aspects, we will implement the directives after Eid,” he added.
The existing Motor Vehicles Ordinance does not allow a driver to drive for more than five hours without a minimum half-hour break, or for more than eight hours a day, or for more than 48 hours a week.
However, current circumstances see long-distance drivers work for 10-14 hours a day because of gridlock and distance of destinations.
Transport experts think this is one of the major reasons for road accidents.
Ramesh said they have fixed an 8-hour shift for drivers, and their assistants, because of huge traffic jams on the highways.
“Considering the present road conditions, we need to make sure that drivers reach specific restrooms if we really need to implement the directive in 5-hour working period,” Ramesh, also vice president of Bangladesh Bus Truck Owners’ Association, said.
Kazi Md Saifun Newaz, assistant professor at the Accident Research Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said that ensuring the availability of substitute drivers, and preventing drivers from plying highways not longer than five hours at a stretch, will be slightly difficult at this time.
“During Eid journeys, drivers are stuck for three to five hours at the same spot. How will the five-hour shift work then?”
Operators say drivers’ salaries also need to be revised if the five-hour directive is implemented.
Transport owners say they need to make a full-fledged system to ensure the availability of restrooms and other facilities.
“The authorities and owners have to set a place to build restrooms for vehicle staff,” Hanif Enterprise Chairman Kafil Uddin said.
Shyamoli Paribahan MD Ramesh said: “If we have a restroom in Comilla or Chauddagram for Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar bound buses, then one would need to know how long it will take for the bus to reach the destination—five or eight hours?”
“Constructing restrooms everywhere is a long-term process. It is also not clear who will build the restrooms—the government or the owners,” Buet Prof Saifun Newaz said.
Khandaker Enayetullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said the Road Transport and Highways Division will undertake a program to build four restrooms along the highways in: Chittagong, Sylhet, Rangpur, and Jessore.
Draft Road Transport Act
On August 6, the Cabinet approved the draft Road Transport Act 2018 to curb road accidents and bring discipline to the transport sector.
Once the bill is enacted, it will replace the existing Motor Vehicles Ordinance.
The bill, expected to be passed into law in parliament next month, will introduce tougher punishments than existing ones for traffic rule violations ; it, aims to ensure safe movement on the roads of Bangladesh. On average, about 3,000 accidents occur every year.
The authorities concerned can fix the work hours of drivers and helpers of: buses, trucks, covered vans and other vehicles—this must be implemented by transport owners. Failing to do so will lead to corresponding punishment under the new law.