Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Global Bus Company has put all its drivers under scrutiny following a series of complaints lodged by travellers plying the Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara route. The complaints are mainly based on cases of unprofessional conduct and careless mistakes, some of which have resulted in accidents and loss of lives.
The decision followed public uproar in the wake of an accident involving one bus registration number UBB 195N that collided with a Tipper in Kayabwe town along the Kampala-Masaka Highway. The accident claimed two lives and left 20 others with injuries.
In the aftermath, State Minister for Transport Minister Aggrey Bagiire called for the scrapping of the company’s open route chart and inspection of its fleet. The Transport Licensing Board –TLB was required to individually license each bus, accredit each driver and take action against all those who have been involved in accidents.
But Jude Tumwine, the Global Bus Manager said the minister’s directive was too harsh. He said that the Kayabwe accident was the only incident involving their bus over a period of two years, yet the company had still put in place measures to ensure that its personnel comply with transport guidelines issued by the Ministry of Transport and the Transport Licensing Board.
Tumwiine told URN that so far, 10 Global Bus drivers have been relieved of their duties while 30 others cautioned and taken for refresher courses to guarantee safety and professionalism on the road.
A report by the transport ministry indicates that Global coaches have been involved in over ten accidents, which include both minor and fatal mishaps, within a space of three weeks. The record is also tainted with piles of complaints against the company, filed at police and with the transport regulators.
Benon Mwebaze Kajuna, the Director in Charge of transport in the Ministry of Works and Transport says the complaints are being investigated. He adds that the investigation will re-examine all vehicles to find out whether they are in the right technical conditions and probe all Global Bus drivers to establish whether they have the right expertise to man the buses.
The ministry has also resolved that each bus belonging to global coaches should have its route chart as opposed to the current arrangement where all buses by the same company operate under one open route chat. This, Mwebaze says will help improve monitoring of the buses on their departure and arrival to several destinations.
Theophil Twahirwa, a supervisor of one of the buses in Kisenyi Bus Terminal told URN that small bus companies are subjected to a single route chart meaning that they only have to operate in the stipulated time yet companies with many buses are given open route charts which enable them to load and depart as and when the passengers are available.
“If they give you an open route chat, you have to be having many drivers. They don’t have a specific time for their buses to depart or arrive. They only change their drivers. So if you have 50 buses, you must have another 50 standby drivers to be able to drive the bus after it arrives from a journey,” Twahirwa told URN.
Companies with open route charts include Baby Coach, Gaaga, Gateway and Global Coaches. Global company has 86 buses according to Tumwine who actually says it is not easy to fit all of them in the 24-hour clock schedule.
Operators, however, argue that because Global Bus Company has overwhelming clients, the bus drivers are often asked to drive during the times they are supposed to be resting.
Ivan Asiimwe, the Manager of Kingo Coaches, buses that ply Ishaka-Itendero-Nyakabirizi-Mbarara via Masaka says their bus drivers have between 8-10 hours of rest before they commence another journey.
Last year, the Transport Licensing Board suspended Gaaga Bus operations countrywide for over 30-days due to a poor road safety record. The action was taken after a fatal accident which claimed 23 lives when Gaaga bus collided with a tractor before ramming into a stationary truck in Kiryandongo district of along the Kampala- Gulu Highway.
According to police records, over 6,200 lives have been lost in road accidents only in the past two years. However, authorities observe that most of the accidents are caused by human error.