関越道バス事故 ずさんな運行実態を見逃すな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 12, 2012)
Sloppy operations of tour buses must not be overlooked
関越道バス事故 ずさんな運行実態を見逃すな(6月10日付・読売社説)

Accidents involving tour buses using expressways should be prevented by all means.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has started studies toward reinforcing regulations on bus companies. This is an appropriate action.

More than one month has passed since the Kanetsu Expressway accident in which seven passengers died. We are appalled by the bus company's careless management of bus operations.

The ministry will rescind the bus company's business license and suspend the business of the travel agency that planned the bus tour. These punishments are only natural.

The direct cause of the accident was the bus driver falling asleep at the wheel, but the companies' awareness that they held people's lives in their hands was lacking.

The ministry also has a grave responsibility for its delayed response. Both the public and private sectors must work together to implement thorough safety measures.


Too many violations

The driver who caused the accident was hired on a daily basis, which is prohibited by law. The company did not perform health checks on the driver, as required by the ministry's rules, before he was allowed to drive a bus, or give him written instructions including bus operation routes. Operations on the day of the accident were left in the hands of the driver, who had little experience in long-distance driving.

The bus company has committed 28 law violations but did not fix the problems involved in past violations. Also, the national administration neglected follow-up checks.

The most important problem is that this is hardly an exceptional case.

Due to deregulation of the requirements for entry into the business in 2000, the number of tour bus companies has sharply increased to about 4,500. The competition to win orders from travel agencies has intensified, making excessive workloads a normal situation for drivers.

According to a survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, about 90 percent of chartered bus drivers have fallen asleep or felt drowsy while working.

According to transport ministry standards, the upper limit for one driver to drive a bus in a single day is 670 kilometers.

Since the accident, the tour bus industry has independently formulated guidelines, including assigning an alternative driver if a bus is operated for 450 kilometers or more at night. This was a step foward in the right direction, but the guidelines are not legally binding.


Responsibility of travel firms

Many travel agencies that plan bus tours leave safety measures completely to the bus companies. This is also a problem.

The transport ministry decided last week to formulate guidelines to require travel agencies dealing with bus tours using expressways to disclose safety information. The ministry will oblige the companies to clarify the number of alternative drivers in tour advertisements, for instance. We would like the ministry to enforce the guidelines immediately after they are formulated.

The ministry plans to make travel agencies get permission for bus operations by next summer. The travel agencies will have heavier responsibility in terms of bus operation, which will help improve the situation.

The Kanetsu Expressway accident was so serious partly because there was a space between the noise-blocking wall on the side of the road and the guardrail, and the wall pierced the bus' body when it hit the wall. Such spaces exist at 5,100 locations throughout the country. It is an urgent task to rectify this.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 10, 2012)
(2012年6月10日01時18分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-06-13 07:10 | 英字新聞

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