KUDOS to the Chair on Transportation Committee of the City Council.

Finally, someone who believes that the commuting public deserve drivers who are really professionals and public service oriented.

The good councilor LA has voiced out that there is a need for public utility drivers to pass the TESDA accredited drivers’ proficiency standard. Now that is a very commendable action to weed out public utility drivers who are a menace to the riding public, fellow drivers and pedestrian alike. Maybe now we can really remove drivers who are illiterate, do not know road safety rules and regulation as well as do not know how to react in a dangerous road condition – these are drivers who obtained their licenses through corruption.

As usual, the drivers and operators are against the upgrading of the driving standards citing additional burden for them. This is akin to saying, that they really do not care for the safety of the general public and that this additional expense for them is more valuable than the lives of their passengers. What is wrong with a genuine certificate that certifies a driver as world class, competent and knowledgeable enough to be trusted h the lives of thousands of passengers daily? This will even be a certificate that may be used to get a job abroad.

In one of my visits to Korea, we visited a driving school facility for bus drivers. All bus drivers had to pass their examinations before they are allowed to drive for the public. This is how stringent standards should be if you are to be a public utility driver. The bus drivers had to spend weeks of lecture to gain knowledge on road safety as well as on how to handle all types of driving scenarios that they will encounter. Each driver must be able to demonstrate his/her knowledge and skills by having to drive in simulated accidents in a controlled environment. Yes, there is a huge track for the various scenarios (the whole institution must be more than a hundred hectares).

We, ASEAN delegates boarded a training bus to experience the simulated dangerous road conditions. We had harrowing experiences of having a bus sliding out of control on a wet surface and then we were barely able to hold on to our seats as they made the bus make a 180 degree spin. Would–be drivers were taught the proper techniques on how to regain control of their buses.

Even private and taxi drivers pay the institution to learn safety driving, car drivers demonstrated to us the importance of seatbelts by accelerating then doing sudden brakes. I would have had a nasty head bump if I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

All these are done to ensure that the riding public will arrive in their destinations fast and safe. I rode the public buses in Seoul and I felt safer knowing that they have undergone stringent drivers’ education programs designed to minimize road accidents.

Does LTO or LTFRB have these tests to ensure the safety of our riding public? NO.

If the intention of the policy of having additional requirements is to ensure that our commuting public will have a safer trip then why in the world are the PUV drivers and operators against it? Is it about the expenses that they will incur for the tests, another way to look at these expenses would be that these are necessary expenses to ensure that drivers will not have to pay for the hospitalization of his injured passengers in the future –this could run to hundreds of thousand pesos for serious injuries plus the damage to properties – all because the driver does not know how to drive safely.

Again the public utility drivers and operators are acting against the public interest just like when they protest against any increases in the traffic violation fees. They always cite that this will lead to more corruption. Let us face it, drivers love corrupt traffic cops because they will just pay them off to get away from the traffic citation tickets. Walang tatanggap kung walang naglalagay. Or maybe, drivers know that they will really be cited for traffic violations because they do not really know the traffic rules and regulations so let us keep it affordable so they can commit violation intentionally or ignorantly more often.

The militant transportation groups have always claimed that they represent the masses by resisting fuel hikes and at the same time demanding for higher fares but they merely represent their own sector. As I have stated in my previous article, by demanding that the government be lenient on their operations these tens of thousands of drivers and operators of jeepneys, buses, van, taxis and tricycles are not serving the interests of the hundreds of thousands if not millions of commuters. Rather it should be the opposite, higher standards on driving, registration, vehicle maintenance and others must be imposed on them because they have taken the responsibility of providing for public transportation for the commuters.

It is high time that local government units provide our commuters with public utility drivers who can drive competently and safely. This additional requirement above the regular drivers’ license is a must if we want to upgrade traffic discipline and road safety amongst our public utility drivers. Drivers certificates must not only be a requirement for PUV drivers but should include drivers of trucks, tricycle, vans for hire, school buses – all those involved in transporting the public and large vehicles.

If our drivers and operators cannot meet the high standards on road safety and discipline for the safety of our commuters then maybe it is time for them to shift to another business. Driving for the public is a service and not a business. rpalabado@gmail.com