Mounting bus deaths spur talk of double-decker ban | Bangkok Post: learning

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(Updated) Double-decker buses: Strict new rules coming

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The Land Transport Department (LTD) is set to introduce tough new safety regulations for double-decker buses, including measures to ensure drivers are better qualified. 

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Passing a slope test like this one is just one of the new requirements to improve the safety of double-deck buses. Here a double-decker bus undergoes the test at the Department of Land Transport in Pathum Thani. APICHIT JINAKUL

'Strict new bus rules' due

Amornrat Mahitthirook 
Chadamas Chinmaneevong

The Land Transport Department (LTD) is set to introduce tough new safety regulations for double-decker buses, including measures to ensure drivers are better qualified.

The new regulations are expected to take effect between next month and June.

The rules were announced by LTD chief Asdsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket Thursday in the wake of the double-decker accident in Tak on Monday which left 30 passengers dead and dozens injured.

One of the new regulations will require drivers of double-decker buses to obtain a Category 3 public transport driver’s licence, the highest available qualification for a bus driver. Only the most skilled drivers are granted such a licence, Mr Asdsathai said. Double-decker bus drivers currently need only a Category 2 licence.

The requirement should be in place around the end of next month, Mr Asdsathai said.

The LTD is also drafting regulations demanding mandatory safety belts and better-quality seats on all double-deckers, as well as ensuring the structural strength of bus bodies meets international standards.

Those new regulations are set to come into effect some time between next month and June.

The King Mongkut University of Technology’s North Bangkok campus will be commissioned to help design the blueprint for a bus body with improved balance and stability, Mr Asdsathai said.

Last year only 43% of 1,250 public buses with heights over 3.6 metres passed a balance test, known as a "slope test", he said.

The department chief added there are also plans to improve the braking system of double-deckers.

“Many countries have already banned the use of double-decker buses to transport tourists as they are not safe. So, Thailand should do the same,” Association of Thai Travel Agents president Susdivachr Cheewarattanaporn said.

Many tour operators prefer not to use double-deckers to transport foreign tourists due to safety fears, he added.

Thursday's story

A double-decker bus carrying Buri Ram United soccer fans overturned in Buri Ram early this month, injuring over 10 passengers. Fortunately, in this case, there were no deaths. PIKUL KAEWHAWONG

'Half' of all double-deck buses unsafe

Amornrat Mahitthirook

Land transport authorities have revealed nearly half of double-decker buses have failed basic safety tests, as major transport operators are torn over a plan to ban the vehicles.

Caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said Wednesday many double-decker buses on the roads were unsafe and he wanted operators to order their drivers to take more precautions on dangerous routes.

"Of the buses subject to a slope test, about 45% did not pass," Mr Chadchart said, citing ministry figures. It was not clear when the figures were compiled, or what happens to the buses which fail. "The vehicles can overturn if they negotiate a curve at high speed."

A standard double-decker bus weighs about 18 tonnes and is 4.5 metres high. It can carry up to 50 passengers, while a single-decker bus weighs 15 tonnes, is about 3.8 four metres high and carries up to 40 passengers. The minister said it may be difficult to control a double-decker bus in an emergency situation given the added height and weight.

Mr Chadchart plans to limit the height of all passenger buses to four metres in the future. At present, there are about 6,200 double-decker buses registered nationwide. Of them, about 1,700 are scheduled buses while the rest are charter vehicles.

The plan comes in the wake of an accident involving a double-decker bus which killed 29 people and injured 23 others in Tak on Monday.

Mr Chadchart also pointed to seven highways which he said are unsafe for double-decker buses to operate on. They are the Tak-Mae Sot, the Phitsanulok-Phetchabun, the Kabin Buri-Pak Thong Chai, the Ang Thong-Sing Buri-Chai Nat section of the Asian Highway, the Rangsit-Saraburi, the Krabi-Phangnga and the Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son routes.

Thailand Development Research Institute researcher Sumet Ongkittikul said bus operators preferred double-decker buses because they can carry more passengers. But he said research has found they are not suitable for long-haul routes as the vehicles can become dangerously unstable driving up or down steep slopes.

He also pointed out that the UN Economic Commission for Europe introduced 150 safety criteria for operating the vehicles, but the Department of Land Transport implemented only four of them in regulating passenger buses.

Mr Sumet said operators apply to register about 800 double-decker buses annually, but about 20-30% fail safety tests. He added that a standard double-decker bus costs about 7-8 million baht, but most double-decker buses driven in Thailand are locally assembled and cost 3-4 million baht each.

Sujinda Cherdchai, president of the Thai Bus Operators Association and owner of Cherdchai Tour Co, opposes a ban on double-decker buses on danger-prone routes.

She said most bus operators, including her own company, had spent a lot of money to acquire the double-decker buses. A ban on the vehicles would be unfair to the companies, she said, adding that most accidents are the fault of drivers, not the vehicles.

Sathaporn Wongbenjarat, president of Nakhonchai Air, said his company avoided using double-deckers because tall buses handled poorly and were unsuitable for driving at high speeds.

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apply: to make a formal request for permission to do or have something - ขอ, สมัคร (noun form: application การขอ, การสมัคร)

assemble: to make something by joining separate parts - ประกอบ

association: an official group of people who have joined together for a particular purpose - สมาคม

authority: a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

avoid: to stay away from; to not use - หลีกเลี่ยง

balance: the ability to keep steady with an equal amount of weight on each side - ความสมดุล, การทรงตัว

ban: to officially say that someone is not allowed to do something   - ห้ามอย่างเป็นทางการ

blueprint: a photographic copy of an early plan for a building or machine - พิมพ์เขียว, แผนงานที่ละเอียด

caretaker: in charge for a short time, until a new leader or government is chosen - รักษาการ

chartered: hired especially for the use of a particular group - เช่าเหมาลำ

cite: to mention something as an example - กล่าวถึง

come into effect: to begin to be used - เริ่มใช้

commission: to officially ask for a piece of work to be done - มอบหมายให้ทำ

compile: to collect information from different places and arrange it in a book, report or list - รวบรวม

criteria: a standard that is used for judging something or for making a decision about something - บรรทัดฐาน

currently: at this time; now - ในปัจจุบัน

curve: a line or surface that bends gradually; a smooth bend - เส้นโค้ง, ทางโค้ง

development: the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc - การพัฒนา

double-decker: a boat, bus, etc. that has two levels, i.e., two decks - เรือ, รถบัส, ฯลฯ ที่มีสองชั้น

draft: to write a document, plan, etc. that may be changed before it is finally accepted - ร่าง

due: expected to happen or should happen; expected to arrive; scheduled - มีกำหนด

emergency: an unexpected situation involving danger in which immediate action is necessary - เหตุฉุกเฉิน

ensure: to make certain that something happens or is done - ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ

fault: being the one to blame; blameworthy; the person who caused something bad to happen - ความผิด

figure: a number representing a particular amount, especially one given in official information - ตัวเลข, จำนวนเลข

fortunately: used for emphasizing that something good has happened, especially because of good luck - อย่างโชคดี, อย่างเคราะห์ดี

given: because of a particular fact -

grant: to officially give something - ให้

implement: to make something such as an idea, plan, system or law start to work and be used - นำแผนหรือนโยบายมาปฏิบัติ, นำมาใช้

in place: prepared and ready to use - เข้าที่, อยู่ในที่

in the wake of: happening after an event or as a result of it - สืบเนื่องมาจาก

injure: to hurt or cause physical harm to a person or animal - ทำให้บาดเจ็บ, ทำร้าย

injured: hurt in an accident or attack - ได้รับบาดเจ็บ

licence: an official document that gives someone permission to do or use something - ใบอนุญาต

limit: to stop something from increasing beyond a particular amount or level - จำกัด

locally: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ในท้องถิ่น, ในประเทศ

long-haul: long-distance -

mandatory: ordered by a law or rule - ตามข้อบังคับ

measure: a firm action taken to solve a problem or stop a dangerous unpleasant situation - มาตราการ

nationwide: throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ

negotiate: to successfully travel on a road or path that is difficult to travel on or through - ฝ่าไป

operator: a person or company that runs a business - ผู้ดำเนินกิจการทางธุรกิจ, ผู้ประกอบธุรกิจ

oppose: to disagree with or not approve of a plan or policy - คัดค้าน

overturn: to turn upside down or on the side - พลิกคว่ำ, คว่ำลง

passenger: someone who travels in a motor vehicle, aircraft, train, or ship but is not the driver or one of the people who works on it - ผู้โดยสาร

precaution: an action taken to protect people or things against possible harm or trouble - การป้องกันไว้ก่อน

preferred: wanted more than anyone or anything else - ซึ่งชอบมากกว่า

prone: to likely to experience a particular problem more often than is usual - ที่มีแนวโน้ม

qualification: a skill or type of experience that you need for a particular job or activity; an exam that you have passed or a course of study that you have successfully completed - คุณวุฒิ, คุณสมบัติ

register: to put your name and other information on an official list in order to be allowed to do something, e.g., vote, study, stay in a hotel etc - ลงทะเบียน

regulate: to control an activity officially - ควบคุม

regulations: official rules that control the way that things are done - ระเบียบปฏิบัติ

requirement: something that you must have or do in order to do or get something else - ข้อกำหนด, ข้อบังคับ

research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย

reveal: to let something become known - เปิดเผย

route: the roads used to go from one place to another - เส้นทาง

scheduled: planned to happen at a particular time or day - ตามตารางเวลา

set to: ready to do something - พร้อม

skilled: having enough ability, experience and knowledge to be able to do something well - มีทักษะ,

slope: a straight surface that has one end higher than the other - พื้นที่ลาดเอียง, ที่ลาด

stability: the ability of something to remain balanced and not fall or shake - เสถียรภาพ, ความคงที่, ความมั่นคง

standard: average or normal rather than having special or unusual features - ซึ่งเป็นมาตรฐาน

steep: rising quickly and difficult to climb - ที่สูงชัน และปีนขึ้นยาก

structural: connected with the way that something is built or organized - เกี่ยวกับโครงสร้าง

subject to: to require something to be done; to make somebody/something experience, suffer or be affected by something, usually something unpleasant - ต้องมีการ..., ทำให้ได้รับ

suitable: acceptable or right for someone or something - เหมาะสม

torn: to be unable to decide or choose between two people, things or feelings - ตัดสินใจไม่ถูก

transport: moving people or things from one place to another - การขนส่ง

unstable: not firm and not likely to support something well or remain in the proper position - ที่ไม่แน่น, ไม่มั่นคง, ที่ไม่แข็งแรง

unsuitable: not right or appropriate for a particular person, purpose or occasion - ไม่เหมาะสม

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