Sunday, June 9, 2013

Thailand: Tour Bus Operators May Face Permanent Revocation of Commercial Licenses

According to The Phuket Gazette, the crash of a tour bus that plowed into a home in Patong on Tuesday night (June 4) has prompted the Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO) to warn that under new measures tour bus companies found to repeatedly fail safety requirements stand to have their commercial passenger permits revoked permanently. Five Russian tourists were injured in the collision.

The unprecedented warning reportedly also includes tour companies and independent operators hired by tour companies to provide bus services.

The PLTO went further: “Any bus company found to be using drivers who do not have the appropriate license or who have a history of drunk driving causing an accident also stand to have their permits revoked… It is the company’s responsibility to check up on their drivers and vehicle maintenance to make sure their passengers are safe,” the spokesperson emphasized.

COMMENT: As most of our readers know all too well, I've been criticizing tour bus operations in Thailand for years until I'm "blue in the face."

Although the rhetoric provided by the PLTO is refreshing, only when ALL commercial vehicles and drivers in Thailand are inspected for safety purposes annually (including all trucks and vehicles transporting tourists) and an inspection decal placed on the windscreen will the safety of tourists and residents be fully satisfied.

The penalty for using a bus that has not passed its annual safety inspection is a fine of up to 50,000 baht, which is only US$1,234. 

First of all, many vehicles never undergo a full safety inspection because of corruption. This needs to change. 

If a commercial vehicle does not pass its safety inspection, its driving privileges should be revoked if they don't have repairs made after a written warning has documented the mechanical deficiency.

The only way for transport oversight agencies to be as transparent as possible is for ALL newspapers in Thailand to publish a monthly list of commercial drivers and the names of companies whose driving privileges have been revoked. Then, and only then, will there be full transparency.

The tour bus company responsible for the bus full of Russian tourists that ran off the road while descending into Patong in October 2011 paid millions of baht in fines and compensation to tourists, as they should have. Of course, the real question is whether the driver and the tour bus operator had real consequences for their actions.

Interestingly, the same week the Russian tour bus ran off the road, another tour bus overturned on the hill between Chalong and Kata.