Following a series of accidents, the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) said it is scheduled to publish new regulations governing the management of tour buses by the end of next month.
An accident involving a tour bus in Smangus Village, Hsinchu County, last year caused the directorate to survey roads in mountainous areas and to ban large tour buses from some.
However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said some tour bus operators had simply changed their vehicle’s specifications to bypass the restrictions.
The directorate has divided large passenger buses into four categories. Buses in category A have wheelbases exceeding 4m, whereas those in categories B, C and D have wheelbases of less than 4m and weigh more than 4.5 tonnes, between 3.5 tonnes and 4.5 tonnes and less than 3.5 tonnes respectively. Vehicles in category A are banned from some of the nation’s mountain highways.
Lee said that a serious violation recently occurred involving a category A tour bus carrying 26 tourists to Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area in Nantou County.
To enable it to drive on a mountain highway, the bus company simply shortened the vehicle’s wheelbase to less than 4m, he said.
According to Lee, the bus driver was unable to drive up a steep slope, causing the bus to go into reverse. The driver had to slam on the brakes to prevent the vehicle from tumbling down a roadside slope, he said.
Lee added that the driver then asked the passengers to take their luggage and leave the bus as he tried to drive up the slope again, but to no avail. The tour group eventually boarded a food truck to get to their hotel.
Lee noted that this was not an isolated case, adding that many tour bus operators are exploiting loopholes. He said that legislators have suggested that tour buses take various safety tests, but the Ministry of Transportation and Communications seems uninterested.
In response, Yeh said he was “very shocked” to hear about the case in Nantou County and promised to address the issue.
KMT Legislator Luo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said that the medium-sized tour bus involved in the accident in Smangus last year was inspected by a company that no longer exists. However, many tour bus operators had previously entrusted the company with the task of vehicle inspection.
She accused of the DGH of attempting to allow the company to escape fulfilling its responsibilities.
Luo added that a private school in New Taipei City currently has nine medium-size tour buses of the same model as the one used in the Smangus accident.
DGH Deputy Director-General Mile Chen (陳茂南) said the company that inspected the bus involved in the Smangus accident would not be able to shirk its responsibilities, adding that the results of its inspections would have to be confirmed by the government’s vehicle registration offices.
Both the company and the Vehicle Safety Certification Center would be held accountable if any vehicle inspected is involved in an accident, he said