Bus operators’ struggle worsens

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

BUS operators’ rallying pleas for survival continue to fall on deaf ears as their predicament has been dragging ever since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced last year.

The Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali told The Malaysian Reserve recently that bus operators are not faring well right now.

“We have not received financial aid from the government. Most members are not able to operate and to meet their financial commitments to banks and hire purchase companies.

“Each member is resolving their difficulties on their own and in their own ways,” he said.

On May 31, the government announced the Bus and Taxi Hire Purchase Rehabilitation Scheme under the Pemerkasa Plus package.

The scheme will grant eligible bus and taxi operators a loan moratorium of up to 12 months and to extend their loan tenure for up to 36 months, to which the government has approved RM1 billion in allocation.

However, Mohamad Ashfar said the scheme has too many conditions and due to the pandemic, most operators are lacking requisite qualifications, leading to an overwhelming increase in default of loans and buses left idle.

“To apply, applicant companies must be making profit, but bus operators have been making losses for several years, so most operators are not qualified,” he commented.

On the automatic one-year extension of vehicle age limit for public service vehicles announced recently by the Transport Ministry (MoT), Mohamad Ashfar said first, the vehicle must pass the inspection by Puspakom Sdn Bhd to get that extension.

“Secondly, to get the Puspakom inspection done, we have to spend money to get the buses ready.

“The buses have not operated for almost a year and we do not know how much longer we will not be able to operate due to the MCO,” he added.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the extension would be granted for any public service vehicle that has or will reach its respective permitted age limit between Jan 1 and Dec 31 this year, and the vehicles must pass the Puspakom vehicles inspection for roadworthiness and safe operation.

Nevertheless, Mohamad Ashfar expressed his appreciation to the MoT for trying to alleviate the industry’s burden.

“We have sent numerous memorandums and have run out of things to ask from the government. We appreciate what the transport minister is doing by trying to lessen our burden.

“We hope that he will also bring to the attention of the Cabinet several of the memorandums that we have submitted to him. Most of our concerns for financial help are within the purview of the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet,” he said.

To recap, PMBOA sent an appeal to MoT in April, suggesting for a special one-off grant to be given to express bus operators based on the number of buses owned by each company that was operating as at March 18, 2020, and payment would be made only to active express buses with valid operator licence, road tax and Puspakom certificate.

The estimated cost of repairs and safety checks by operators before allowing the buses to operate again is about RM15,940 per bus, to which PMBOA requested for 70% of the said cost as the special one-off grant per bus, which amounts to RM11,158.