It was no secret that the Road Transport Act 2018 was not well-received by the operators of the transport sector, i.e. the owners and the workers. Although it was not rejected out of hand by them, they had plenty of reservations about it which they expressed through enforcing a countrywide strike soon after the bill was passed and placing an eight-point demand that included, inter alia, reduction of the degree of punishments stipulated in the law. And the fact that it was more than a year after the act was passed into a law that it was put into effect, in November 2019, demonstrates the hesitancy of the administration in implementing it.
As it is, several sections of the law are being held in abeyance, and although the punishments for various offenses in the new law are more severe than that in the superseded Motor Vehicle Act, those do not still meet the expectations of the public. And now the government has relaxed the experience requirement for getting a heavy vehicle driving licence. Now, having a light vehicle driving licence for three years will make one eligible for driving a heavy vehicle which includes bus and truck. Previously, one needed to have at least six years’ experience before one could apply for and obtain a valid licence for that. Currently, less than half of the drivers have valid licences for these vehicles.
One should remember that the new law came into existence after a countrywide protest led by students to bring in effective reforms through a time-befitting law that would bring a semblance of sanity to what has otherwise been a reckless sector. The regrettable aspect is that the sector is controlled by politicians with tremendous power to hold the administration hostage to their demands. While one agrees that drivers are not the only causes of the accidents, it must be acknowledged that unqualified drivers, reckless driving, disregard for passenger safety, and dilapidated condition of vehicles remain the major causes. Admittedly, there is a shortage of qualified heavy-vehicle drivers, but there is no short cut to experience. Any abridgment of the required standard means risking public safety. That is what the administrators must never lose sight of.