Government asks for delay in pickup ban
The Transport Ministry plans to ask the Royal Thai Police (RTP) to come up with a traffic regulation that will allow people to sit in the rear space, or tray, of pickup trucks, after the government suffered fierce criticism over its vow to stop the practice.
Speaking after a meeting with Deputy Transport Minister Pichit Akrathit Tuesday, Department of Land Transport (DLT) director-general Sanit Promwong said the discussion touched on how they could enact the restriction, which is stipulated in the 1979 Land Traffic Act.
The government agreed that the traffic law dictating the ban must be imposed carefully to avoid upsetting people who travel in the back of trucks for work purposes and as a way of life, said Mr Sanit.
With this in mind, the ministry will propose to the RTP, which handles traffic law enforcement, that it should roll out its regulation to offer the reprieve, he said.
"The Transport Ministry is set to ask the RTP to roll out additional regulations to ease the restriction so as to allow people to ride in the tray and the rear space of pickup trucks," said Mr Sanit said.
Such regulations issued by the RTP can be enforced right away, he noted.
Police can also address other safety concerns by setting a speed limit for pickup trucks along with a limit on how many people are allowed to travel in a tray, the DLT chief said.
He added that the RTP can decide whether these regulations would be temporary or permanent as well as when they would be enforced.
A DLT source said the representatives from the RTP and the DLT held talks over the issue Tuesday, but still failed to reach a conclusion.
The DLT officers told the RTP that police have the authority to issue the reprieve; for example, police can designate zones where people are allowed to ride in pickup truck trays, such as on minor or community roads as well as what a vehicle's speed limit should be, according to the source.
The DLT will be responsible for making sure that the condition of pickup trucks is in line with safety standards, the source noted.
The ban on people travelling in the tray of a pickup truck was enforced on April 5 in the lead-up to the Songkran holiday, a time when dangerous driving is rampant and road deaths are high.
But the government decided to roll back its ban in the evening of the same day following fierce criticism.
Some people said many residents in rural areas do not have enough money to pay for public transport so they travel together in a pickup as a group to save on transportation costs.
The ministry's move appears to be at odds with the RTP, which earlier this month also requested the DLT come up with new regulations under the 1979 Motor Vehicle Act to give options to people so that they can travel in the back of pickup trucks.
Based on the RTP's suggestion on the regulations, safety belts could be installed in the rear space of a pickup, which is large enough, while the total number of people travelling in the vehicle's tray must not exceed six.
The final official road toll from the week-long Songkran holiday period was 390 deaths, down 12% on last year.