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College buses add to the mayhem on the roads

Staff Reporter

Condition of buses, training of drivers leave a lot to be desired


  • Intense competition among drivers lead to overspeeding
  • The large number of vehicles compounds the problem
  • No `safety record' for professional drivers maintained

    CHENNAI: On Monday, a speeding college bus left a woman lecturer dead. But the problems surrounding college buses do not stop with speeding.

    The race begins early in the day. There is needless but intense competition among drivers, especially on crowded corridors such as East Coast Road-Old Mahabalipuram Road, the Chennai-Bangalore National Highway and the Madras Tiruvallur High Road.

    The condition of the buses as well the training and motivation levels of the drivers leave a lot to be desired, college owners themselves concede. Many colleges buy old buses auctioned off by transport corporations to cut costs. Only a few go in for the latest models, according to traffic experts. And not many college authorities bother about training their drivers better.

    A year ago, the Automobile Association of Southern India wrote to all private engineering colleges in the city. "We said we would provide defensive driver training at the college premises even on weekends," says AASI secretary M.K. Subramanian. "However, not a single college principal replied."

    The AASI approached Anna University, urging it to request colleges to get their bus drivers trained after the organisation received a spate of `rash driving' complaints. "They also did not respond," adds Mr. Subramanian.

    Large numbers

    What compounds the issue is the sheer number of vehicles on road. There are about 80 professional colleges in and around Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts, besides dozens of arts and science colleges and scores of companies that use dedicated transport for their employees.

    Even if each of them were to operate on an average 20 buses (some big colleges have over 40 buses or more), the total number of vehicles ferrying students and I.T company employees in the city alone exceeds 2,000. Their fitness levels remain doubtful as most of the buses are second hand.

    Outsourcing

    Some private colleges get over the problem by outsourcing transport: they take contract carriages from bus operators, ridding themselves of the need to keep vehicles fit or training their drivers.

    This could be a solution that colleges could think of, says experts.

    K. Kanakaraj, chairman, Jaya group of colleges, says: "It is time to think of asking the Government to use transport corporation buses in dedicated routes for exclusively transporting college students. This can also result in more revenue for the corporations."

    Colleges also need to stop poaching of drivers from other institutions, he says. There is a need to create driver-training facilities by a consortium of colleges.

    According to Mr. Subramanian, accidents and the tendency to flout traffic rules could be contained if there is a `safety record' for professional drivers. "Employers can refer the record of a driver and decide whether to appoint the person or not based on these records."

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