Restoring normalcy in road transport sector

No rhetorics, only action to serve the purpose

Syed Mahbubur Rashid | Published: February 23, 2019 16:11:08


Everywhere around the globe the government forms a commission with a view to either cooling down any agitation or concealing the authority's non-action psyche or hoodwinking the people. In Bangladesh complete chaos has been prevailing in the road transport sector. Every day there have been at least 10 deaths due to road accidents. All kinds of dangerous accidents have been happening on the roads. Either a bus has been running at a very high speed hitting a tree or colliding with another bus. Overtaking is not considered as an offence. Some vehicles have been plying without route permits and according to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), 32 per cent vehicles are totally unfit for plying. The question is: What BRTA is doing? There have been enough seminars and symposiums and talk shows. Almost every day someone from the highest authority has been sermoning. But the net result is zero. The number of disasters is on the increase. So Bangladesh cannot wait more and spend time for luxury of having a commission. It needs to go for direct action.

It is a fact that the problem is hydra-headed, So it cannot be solved within a few months. Long term plans and actions are to be taken considering various types of problem in view along with the immediate and short-term plans. However, some acts are to be taken immediately. First of all, Parliament should pass a law if possible with a provision for making payment to the victim as compensation. At present, the Hon'ble High Court Division has been issuing rules for payment of compensation to the victims in sporadic cases. The law should provide that every operator (individual or company) of the transport must make payment amounting to Tk 1.5 million (15 lakh) and 500 thousand (5 lakh) for the death and injuries respectively. This law will be compulsory. It should come into effect immediately.

The cause of the accident should not stand in the way of making the payment. That will be between the operator and the driver. There shall be proper service rules having all the provisions of law of the country in existence. A time limit should be fixed after which no person without having SSC certificate will be appointed as a driver. Transport owners should take steps for forming limited companies for running their transport business. The government should encourage it. Either in the committee of the transport owners or the labour union no high-up should be included. Rather we would humbly say that they will refrain from joining these organisations. The BRTA itself has admitted that 32 per cent vehicles do not have fitness certificates. It is now the sacred duty of the BRTA that these unfit vehicles are immediately withdrawn from the road. The RHD (Roads and Highways Department) and the railways department should form a committee to ascertain the number of guarded and unguarded rail gates. Casualties due to collusions between trains and road transport are quite high. It should be the moral responsibilities of the railway authorities to post gate-keepers at all the rail-gates. The Bangladesh Railway has been telling us of very high plans, we are dreaming of having connection with Trans Asian railways. Some of our leaders are even speaking about bullet trains. But the clear contradiction is that the railway authorities' maintenance work is very poor and almost every week there will be disruption of communication due to either a fault with the rail line or defects of the engine which could hardly be heard during pre-Liberation days. It is a challenge and the railway authorities may verify the figure. The main reason is that the railway authorities are totally ignoring the maintenance work. However, if the railway authorities cannot provide personnel for all the gates, the railway authorities and the RHD should make a list of the left out cases and sufficient cautionary measures like speed breakers or any other method should be taken so that the vehicles get enough chances to control themselves. Proper issuance of driving licences is a major flaw. Proper test and care are not taken before issuing licences. It is alleged that a man can obtain a driving licence without going to the BRTA Office. Wards of powerful persons can obtain licences of ten years' duration without coming to the BRTA office. Since the BRTA has miserably failed to properly handle the issue of licence, the concerned department of the Army may be requested to take over the responsibility of issuing licences for some time.

On many occasions it has been observed that serious accidents have occurred due to the fatigue of the drivers due to over-driving. Of course, the issue can be taken care of after the service rules are introduced. However, under no circumstances a driver can be allowed to be over-worked. The driver can be provided with high wages compared to other employees. Rules and regulations can never be uniform and universal for all countries. It will depend upon the circumstances and the situation in a country. Most of the highways of Bangladesh consist of two lanes and different types of semi-mechanical and mechanical vehicles with different speed ply the highways. Moreover, the number of pedestrians is very high. It is the tradition of Bangladesh that hats and bazars sit on the wayside. So, there is no scope of any adventure like running at a very high speed in Bangladesh. Speed should be made limited. Extension and improvement work on the highway is moving at a snail's pace. The RHD will never be able to show that it could complete any work within the reasonable delay, let alone the scheduled date. The RHD should try heart and soul to get rid of the sloth syndrome.

It is known that every road has the load bearing capacity. If overloaded vehicles move, it will have an adverse effect. There will be a number of holes, as parts of the roads will get broken because of the heavy load. But unfortunately, almost all the cargo transport plies heavily overloaded. Measures for weighing are quite insufficient. This issue should be taken into consideration seriously. More and more weighing machines should be installed at strategic points. It should be one of the prime responsibilities of the highway police to check the menace and save the roads from becoming unpliable.

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