Stage bus operators blame authorities for drop in income
The issuance of too many permits by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) and the failure by the authorities to act against illegal public transport operators are the main reasons for stage bus operators in Sabah, particularly those in major towns like Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, to experience dwindling income. “CVLB should approve the licence applications based on demand and the number of passengers each bus can carry. Too many permits have been issued to new operators for existing routes,” Pan Malaysian Bus Operators’ Association president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali said during a media conference at Sandakan Hotel before the start of the 352nd PMBOA council meeting on Tuesday. He said from a survey the population of Sabah was increasing but the income of stage bus operators was getting lesser and they wanted to find out from our members the reasons for this. “From our discussions, the blame is completely on the authorities for the issuance of too many permits for existing routes and the failure to act against illegal public transport operators,” Mohamad Ashfar said. He said the association members would not object if the permits were to provide services to new areas but they were upset because the licences were being issued for overlapping routes. “Members are complaining that the capacity now is about 40 percent and sometimes during peak period it is only 60 percent. This is not fair as our buses are carrying empty seats and it is completely ridiculous for CVLB to continue issuing new permits,” he pointed out. Mohamad Ashfar urged CVLB to implement a better control over the approval and issuance of permits by setting a time frame for applicants to submit their applications. “They have to set an open and closing date whereby applications must be submitted within these dates,” he said. According to Mohamad Ashfar, at present there are about 540 licensed mini buses and 270 licensed stage buses operating in Sandakan. Touching on illegal public transport, he said the problem was rampant in Sabah compared to Peninsular Malaysia. “We brought the matter up with the authorities in Sabah nearly two years ago but it appears nothing has been done to address this despite having told us then they would act on it. The relevant Government agencies are giving lame excuses for their failure to act against illegal public transport operators,” he said. “We are genuine and licensed operators and it is the moral duty of the authorities to look after our interest. We are paying income tax, licences, wages and EPF to our workers, passengers’ insurance and our buses are subjected for inspections but the illegal operators pay nothing to the Government,” he added. He said the association would be writing to CVLB, the police and Road Transport Department on problems affecting its members in Sabah and urging for actions to be taken. Mohamad Ashfar said he and his committee were meeting members around the country to study their problems and requirements, to check the fare structure in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia before submitting a fare review request to the Government. “The fare structure differs in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia. Bus operators in Sabah are faced with a higher operational cost as the vehicles and spare parts are more expensive here compared to the other two areas,” he said.