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Transport Minister Says Van Drivers are the Safety Threat

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BANGKOK – Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob on Tuesday the safety of passengers riding in public vans must be tackled at its root problem, the bad driving behaviors of drivers.

The newly appointed minister was responding to widespread criticism after changing a policy passed by the last government that required that public van transport operators switch to micro-buses.

His about-turn on the ministry’s policy was because the operators would have to import micro-buses from other countries at high prices.

He said, this could backfire on Thai commuters as the operators would have to increase fares to compensate for the higher vehicle cost.

Saksayam also earlier this month assigned a feasibility study to extend the use of decade-old public transport vans to a maximum of 12 years from the current 10. Operators have demanded it be raised to 15 years.

Micro-Buses Slower and More Expensive

He insisted that control over the allowable age of transport vehicles would be stricter.

The Department of Land Transport (DLT) is currently tasked to carry out a vehicle inspection at least twice a year.

“Any vehicle that failed the vehicle inspection would be pulled off the roads. So public members should help by watching out for and reporting unwanted vans to the authority,” Saksayam said.

“Complaints attached with photo evidences can be sent via various channels and we would proceed with actions until finalized accordingly” he said.

People could also provide their input about public transport via various channels such as the DLT’s Facebook page.

The Thailand Accident Research Centre cited that vans were more accommodating to the drivers wish to make more rounds or their habit of driving at high speed.

Which has made them more prone to road accidents, while micro-buses, which are relatively slower to accelerate or overtake other vehicles, were safer, the center noted.

The center’s studies on various crashes involving vans found that, in the impact of a head-on collision, a van’s gas tank and feeder pipe in the front of the vehicle would break.

Causing a fire that would cause harm to passengers who were trapped in the small space.

A Micro-Bus has More Room to Flee from Flames

In contrast, a micro-bus has more room to flee from flames, as well as large windows and an emergency door. survival.

Although many vans were equipped with GPS, the data is not transmitted to the DLT.  So warnings could not be immediately issued to the speeding van drivers.

The center urged that measures to increase passenger safety must be done simultaneously, namely improving the driving behavior, the vehicle itself, the safety equipment, road and environmental conditions and other passenger issues.

The Transport Ministry must not just focus on solving the behavior of the drivers, said the center.

Earlier this week, Sonthi Kotchawat, a lecturer on environment and public health at many universities, had criticized Saksayam’s decision as “unprofessional. Made by an inexperienced leader who priorities business entrepreneurs over the safety of public transport users”.

Sonthi claimed that vans were dangerous and caused five times more accidents than buses.

The vans, which have weaker body structures than vehicles designed to carry passengers. Vans were being misused for human transport as they were built for the purpose of transporting products.

Source: The Nation