The Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) yesterday said it was considering harsher fines and a demerit system for tour bus operators to encourage them to address safety issues.
The directorate said that about 30 traffic accidents occurred last year involving tour buses, including one in Hsinchu County last month in which 13 people were killed.
Hsieh Chieh-tien (謝界田), director of the directorate’s motor vehicle division, said that the directorate was amending the rules governing the punishment of tour bus operators hiring unqualified drivers or failing to follow other regulations.
DGH Director-General Wu Meng-fen (吳盟分) said that some of the articles in the regulations would be considered unreasonable by many.
Wu said that under the current system, a tour bus operator can be fined between NT$9,000 and NT$90,000 if it is discovered to have hired unqualified bus drivers.
The fine for the first-time offense is NT$9,000.
The penalty is doubled or tripled in instances of second or third offenses, he said.
Based on the rules, the operator would still not be given the maximum fine of NT$90,000 until it had committed the same violation 10 times, Wu said.
Wu said that the operator’s record would also be cleared after six months.
As a result, no tour bus operator has ever been fined NT$90,000 for hiring unqualified drivers, the directorate said.
“How can the public tolerate the fact that an operator will not be [severely] punished until it has violated the same rule 10 times?” Wu asked.
Hsieh said the directorate was also considering implementing a point system in which a tour bus operator would be given demerits if its tour buses committed traffic violations or caused major traffic accidents.
He said a tour bus operator could have its business license revoked, or see the licenses of half of its buses suspended for one year, if it has more than three accidents causing fatalities within a year.
Hsieh said the amendment would greatly affect the interests of tour bus operators and the directorate would hear the tour bus operators first before finalizing the details.
According to Hsieh, the directorate is scheduled to submit the finalized version of the amended rules to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications for final approval.
The directorate is aiming at implementing the amendments in the second half of this year, he said.