Van operators mull stoppage

Van operators mull stoppage

Government urged to relax 'costly' new safety rules

Van operators complain they can't afford to outfit all vehicles with GPS systems this week, and say the Section 44 rule making drivers responsible if passengers refuse to use seat belts is unreasonable. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Van operators complain they can't afford to outfit all vehicles with GPS systems this week, and say the Section 44 rule making drivers responsible if passengers refuse to use seat belts is unreasonable. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Passenger van operators are threatening to stop their services from this Friday if Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha does not relax new traffic rules which require safer public van services.

Some regulations are worrying the operators who complain they cannot shoulder the higher expenses required to adjust their vehicles.

The Association of Interprovincial Van Business sent a petition Tuesday to Government House, calling on Gen Prayut to pay heed to their problem.

The association and passenger van operators granted concessions from the state-run Transport Co will stop their services "if there is no clear answer" from the government, association chairman Rangsan Saisut said.

Their requests for leniency cover rules on passenger seat limitations as well as seat belt requirements.

According to new traffic rules, issued last week by the prime minister under the powerful Section 44 of the interim charter, all people in passenger vans must belt up.

Violators will be fined and vehicle owners and service operators must also share responsibility, Department of Land Transport chief Sanith Phromwong said.

The passenger vans' representatives argued they cannot "order" passengers to buckle up. The passengers alone must bear responsibility as vehicles carry announcements telling them to wear seat belts.

The group also wants the government to allow operators to keep the number of passenger seats at 15, not 13 as stipulated by the Section 44 order.

As for the demand that operators install a global positioning system in each van, they also called for authorities to relax the rule, claiming traffic congestion prevents them from speeding, so GPS may be unnecessary.

However, chief of the Kanchanaburi Land Transport Office Yutthana Anantadechochai insisted the devices are needed because they allow officials to keep a close eye on drivers' behaviour, their driving hours and van speeds.

Many passenger vans are notorious for driving fast, putting passengers at risk of accidents, so drivers' behaviour must be strictly monitored, he said.

He admitted installing GPS is costly as operators have to bear expenses of between 5,000 and 6,000 baht a vehicle. In Kanchanaburi, 75% of 200 passenger vans now have the devices. All installations should be complete by March 31, Mr Yutthana expected.

The Prayut administration is cracking down on rules to ensure safer passenger van driving after a fatal van collision that killed 25 passengers on Road No.344 in Chon Buri's Ban Bung district on Jan 2. The rules are aimed at reducing the number of accidents during the Songkran festival in the middle of next month when many people will travel around the country to celebrate the traditional Thai New Year.

Various measures, including setting up police checkpoints and providing motorists with car inspections, will be carried during the "dangerous week" of Songkran holidays between April 11 and 17.

Authorities aim to cut the number of road accidents by at least 5%. There were a total of 3,447 accidents with 442 deaths from April 11 to 17 last year, the Road Safety Directing Centre says.

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