Wed, Jun 14, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Protesting bus drivers paralyze Taipei traffic

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Police officers bring in tow trucks to remove tour buses that had “broken down” near the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei yesterday during a protest against new tour bus industry regulations.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Members of the New Taipei City Tour Bus Drivers’ Union yesterday vowed to paralyze the traffic in downtown Taipei by mobilizing more tour bus drivers to drive to the city today to protest against the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ stricter regulations on tour bus drivers following a series of fatal accidents.

The union rallied about a dozens tour buses to block the roads around the ministry’s building in Taipei yesterday morning, which slowed the midday traffic at the intersection of Renai Road and Hangzhou S Road.

Union chairman Lee Shih-chia (李式嘉) said the ministry has been using its administrative authority to restrict the development of tour bus operators following two fatal traffic accidents involving tour buses in July last year and February this year.

He said tour bus operators would soon see their operational costs rise when a new policy restricting driving hours takes effect next month, in which tour bus operators are required to change drivers if the driver’s working time exceeds the legal limit.

He said that the measure would expose bus passengers to greater danger if bus drivers who take over have trouble getting used to driving the tour bus within a short period of time, adding that companies would be fined NT$9,000 if they refuse to change drivers.

He also complained about tour bus drivers being fined for driving buses with a tire tread depth of less than 1.6mm.

He said drivers would be penalized even if the tire tread depth is close to 1.6mm, adding that inspectors often make the call whether the driver should be fined.

The nation has 17,000 tour buses and the ministry intends to manage all of them using the Transportation Management Regulations (汽車運輸業管理規則). The result of enforcing the regulations would be that a few large, well-funded operators would control the market

However, the union’s proposals did not correspond with the grievances expressed.

It wants the government to stop city, highway and freeway bus operators offering charter bus services, and for tour bus operators to be given discounts on licenses and fuel taxes.

The union said the ministry should recycle the old tour buses by buying them from tour bus operators and that tour bus operators should lead efforts amending the Highway Act (公路法).

The union demanded that the expenses for training tour bus drivers should be paid entirely by the government, and that the government should cancel the license of a tour bus operator if it does not use it for more than six months.

Both Directorate-General of Highways Director-General Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯) and Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) should resign for negligence in overseeing tour bus operators, the union said.

Directorate-General of Highways Transportation Management Center Executive Secretary Liang Kuo-kuo (梁郭國) said it was the ministry’s hope that the new regulations would lead to tour bus drivers being better managed, educated and insured.

It is not the ministry’s intention that the market should be monopolized by a few well-funded tour bus operators, Liang said.

“We have heard the union’s appeals in several meetings we had with tour bus operators and transportation experts. We will seek to communicate further with the union’s representatives,” Liang said.

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