Authorities probe Aloha after bus crash kills three

TWO STRIKES::The freeway bus operator faces harsher punishment for labor law infractions that could have contributed to the crash, its second in as many years

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jun 12, 2019 - Page 2

Aloha Bus Co (阿羅哈客運) has become the subject of an inspection by the Directorate-General of Highways after one of its buses ran off an embankment on the Sun Yat-Sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1) in Changhua County on Monday night, killing three people and injuring 13.

The deadly accident was the freeway bus operator’s second in the past two years. The first was on Sept. 11, 2017, when one of its buses went out of control and hit a barrier in the northbound section of Freeway No. 1 in Kaohsiung’s Gangshan District (岡山).

The driver of the bus involved in Monday’s crash, surnamed Kuo (郭), has a good record as a commercial vehicle driver, agency records show.

He has committed minor traffic infractions when driving his personal car, but he paid the fines, and the bus recently passed an inspection, with another scheduled for July 18, the records show.

Kuo on Sunday drove 4 hours, 16 minutes from Taipei to Kaohsiung. On Monday, he departed Kaohsiung at noon and arrived in Taipei at 6pm. After resting for about an hour, he drove south again, the records show.

By the time of the fatal accident, Kuo had driven a total of nine hours that day, which did not contravene regulations, the agency said yesterday.

The agency requires that bus drivers take a 30-minute break after driving four hours and a 45-minute break after driving four to six hours consecutively.

Kuo followed the regulations in this regard as well, the agency said.

In addition to examining all relevant records, the agency said that it would continue to investigate the cause of Monday’s accident and determine if it was an isolated case.

It added that it would conduct safety inspections of the bus company’s vehicles and drivers.

Aloha had recently proposed introducing a two-driver system to ease driver workload and to ensure their driving hours are within regulatory limits, the agency said.

In a statement, the company apologized to the public for the crash and promised to provide full compensation to the victims.

However, an inspection conducted by the Kaohsiung Labor Affairs Bureau reportedly found that the company has contravened the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) in three areas, with the fine for each breach potentially reaching NT$1 million (US$31,811).

Kuo worked nonstop from Tuesday last week to Monday, the bureau said, adding that under Article 36 of the act, he should have had one fixed day off and one flexible rest day in that period, but he did not.

Kuo was also not given 11 consecutive hours of rest when working the shifts, a breach of Article 34 of the act, it said.

Aloha also contravened Article 32, Section 2, as Kuo had been on duty for more than 12 hours, it added.

Following the 2017 crash, the company was fined NT$80,000, because it was a first-time offender, the bureau said.

However, as Monday’s incident was the second time that Aloha has been found breaching the act, the bureau said that it would impose harsher punishment.