Tue, Dec 08, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Lawmakers oppose caps on bus service age

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday decided to postpone review of the amendment to the Highway Act (公路法) that will limit the age of large passenger vehicles to 12 years, saying the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) failed to provide adequate complementary measures to implement the policy.

The Directorate-General of Highways proposed the amendment after an accident in Tainan County’s Meiling Scenic Area (梅嶺) three years ago that killed 22 passengers. The tour bus in the accident had been in use for 18 years.

EXTENSION

The amendment requires bus companies to retire large buses that have been in use for 12 years. If the operator wants to extend their use, the buses will have to pass the safety tests given by the nation’s Automotive Research and Testing Center. The maximum extension that a bus can get is four years.

Lawmakers serving on the committee, however, opposed the amendment.

“If the amendment is passed, bus operators will stop buying buses that are more expensive and sturdier because they know they can no longer use these vehicles after 12 years,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said. “Instead, they will start buying vehicles that can only last about 10 years.”

Yeh said 90 percent of the nation’s large passenger vehicles use imported chassis, but the bodies of these vehicles are all made in Taiwan.

Only a few bus operators are willing to buy a fully imported vehicle, she said, with the price difference between the two types of vehicles ranging from NT$3 million (US$93,000) to NT$6 million.

Yeh said that some of the large passenger buses have been in use for more than 12 years but are still in top condition, while some of the newer vehicles have only been in use for five years but are no longer in good shape.

The 12-year vehicle age requirement does not have to apply to all vehicles, she said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) also disagreed with the proposed amendment.

STANDARDS

“The bottom line is what standards should we use to certify that these buses are safe,” Lee said.

Lee suggested the highway agency set different inspection levels for buses.

For example, buses that have been in service for 10 years should undergo inspections twice a year, while those that have been running for 15 years should be inspected thrice a year, he said.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said the ministry would draw up complementary measures within six months.

Meanwhile, the committee approved the amendment to the Highway Act proposed by Lee and 28 lawmakers that would allow motorists to have their vehicles inspected even if they haven’t paid their fuel surcharge fee.

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