A single road accident involving the driver or vehicle of a public utility bus company will cause the entire fleet and it’s drivers to undergo drug testing and a road safety and road worthiness seminar.
This requirement is applicable on a per accident basis regardless of the the time interval from the last previous inspection, seminar or drug test conducted.
This was the warning sent to operators of bus companies by Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Regional Director Reynaldo Elnar during a Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SB) of Bohol regular session on October 30, 2015.
Elnar also reminded the public and all concerned officials “that a report should be made on any PUV accident to their level in order that they could take action and impose sanctions”.
Citing LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2012-007 issued on April 23, 2012, Elnar said that failure to strictly comply with the above provisions shall be sufficient grounds for the suspension or cancellation of the franchise of the operator’s entire fleet.
Elnar’s presence in the session was upon the invitation of the SB to discuss past and recent accidents involving drivers and buses operated by Southern Bus Transit, Inc. and the actions taken by the LTFRB.
The yellow painted buses popularly known as Southern Star figured in several road accidents that raised concern by the commuting public over the road worthiness of their units and the driving skills and physical condition of their drivers.
A spate of road mishaps prompted 1stÂ District Board Member Atty. Abeleon Damalerio to deliver a privilege speech expressing deep concern on “issue on past and recent incidents involving the Southern Star Bus Company operating in Bohol resulting to damage to properties and injuries to the riding public”.
Damalerio informed Elnar that road accidents blamed on Southern Star buses took place in Barangay Ubujan, Tagbilaran City, Inabanga, Macaas, Tubigon and Catagbacan, Loon.
But according to Elnar, “as far as their records are concerned, only one accident involving the Southern Star Bus Company has been reported and is now on the level of their Hearing Officer for action”.
An official police report or any other convincing evidence submitted to the LTFRB will trigger an investigation that will lead to the imposition of sanctions or penalties against the bus company.
But the recording of accident information has been given less importance and is not well defined by the police with accidents reported in the police blotters intended for insurance claims and out of court financial settlements among the victims and erring bus companies.
Noel Fuentes, Branch Manager of Southern Star also admittedÂ the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Committee Meeting of the Whole on October 9, 2015 at the SP Conference Room.Â that 85% of bus accidents were caused by human errors due to poor judgment on the part of their drivers while the remaining 15% was traced to mechanical malfunctions.
Fuentes failed to attend the SB session due to pressing company concerns that needed his presence in Bacolod City.
Currently the largest public land transportation company in Bohol, Fuentes acknowledged the tragic impact of drug impaired driving and the persistent problem of speed maniacs.
Fuentes admitted that “there were bus drivers who tested positive for illegal drugs during our random drug test conducted twice a year and some failed alcohol sobriety tests before they board their buses Â including medical tests but we admit that we need to conduct more drug tests to insure that our drivers are fit to convey our passengers safely”,
Land Transportation Office Tagbilaran District Head Erwin Patalinghug, who was present during the session told the SB that despite a severe manpower shortage, “the LTO has been conducting road side inspections to check the physical condition of drivers and the road worthiness of vehicles”.
Elnar also pointed to the statutory obligations of a PUV operator as to the immediate medical assistance including financial assistance to the victims citing LTFRB MC 2011-004.
Section 45 of the memorandum requires accidents resulting in death or injuries shall be reported to the LTFRB within 72 hours while section 47 of the memorandum states that failure to render medical assistance will be deemed as a “hit and run” situation.
With the socio-economic cost in road accidents now a growing concern, Damaleriio moved for the adoption of Resolution No. 2015-515 requesting the LTFRB Regional Office to “act on the incidents committed by Southern Star Bus Company operating in Bohol to uphold our commitment in protecting and in keeping the safety of our people”Â (Chito M. Visarra)Â