The Transport Department (TD) has revised its bus company guidelines to reduce drivers’ working hours. The move comes after a bus crash in Tai Po left 19 people dead and injured over 60 earlier this month. Reports cited passengers as claiming that the driver was driving recklessly after complaining of being behind schedule.
According to the new guidelines, the maximum duty hours will be shortened from 14 hours to 12 hours. The maximum driving hours per shift will be shortened from 11 to ten hours. Rest breaks granted to bus captains having driven for six hours will be lengthened from 30 to 40 minutes.
Special shifts involving more than 12 hours, but fewer than 14 hours, can be arranged during morning and evening peak hours, during which the driving hours should not exceed 10 hours. The rest times should be no less than three consecutive hours for bus captains during a special shift.
To avoid insufficient rest times for bus captains because of being assigned work over several consecutive days, the new guidelines also state that the total off-duty breaks across three successive shifts – other than special shift duties – should be at least 22 hours.
“The TD stressed that under the current situation, it had to strike a balance among the provision of proper bus services for the passengers, the rest times and working hours of bus captains, and the operational needs of the bus companies when reviewing the Guidelines,” a spokesperson said.
The new guidelines were issued on Friday after the department met with bus firm staff unions. They are likely to be fully implemented by the second quarter of 2019.
“The TD has taken into account the views of staff unions, franchised bus companies and the public when reviewing the Guidelines,” the spokesman said.
The department said it understood bus drivers’ concerns over their income under the new guidelines, but wages should be negotiated between drivers and bus companies.
Two major bus companies Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) and Citybus & NWFB all welcomed the new guidelines.
Meanwhile, two KMB staff unions said the recent increase in wages for drivers was “a trick.”
The company decided to roll safe driving and good service commissions into drivers’ basic salary. Drivers were previously eligible to receive the increased sum only if they performed well.
The KMB Employees Union, which has around 1,300 members, urged the company to increase bus drivers’ basic salary to HK$18,000.
The union said that the new deal was made between the company and another union – under the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions – and that it was not agreed by all staff members.
They threatened to take industrial action by Saturday night but did not elaborate on details.