Reacting to a spate of garment worker transport truck accidents in the past 12 months, including one on Tuesday that took four lives, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) yesterday announced plans to provide truck drivers with road safety education, with the aim of having them licensed by the end of 2016.
NSSF director Ouk Samvithie, speaking yesterday at the fund’s annual meeting, said that beginning in February, teams will be deployed to educate garment worker drivers about traffic laws.
“Some drivers have no driver’s licence, so we will cooperate with experts from the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation to launch a training about traffic laws in order to encourage them [drivers] to take the driving test,” he said, adding that the training will be free of charge.
However, drivers will need to wait to be licensed, Samvithie continued, as licensing is currently suspended as the new Traffic Law, enforced since January 1, is being reviewed.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, head of the National Road Safety Committee, the ministry requested the amendment of several articles of the law including a provision to Article 41 that would make C licences (for vehicles greater than 3.5 tonnes) equivalent to a D1 licence (for vehicles holding up to 20 passengers).
Also to be amended is the requirement for backseat passenger safety belts under Article 90, for which enforcement will be delayed five years.
Speaking yesterday, National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said that Sar Kheng – concerned over the recent accidents – had called for the ministry to carry out inspections on vehicles that carry large numbers of passengers or heavy loads.
The NSSF annual report for 2015 showed that of 30,281 workers who suffered accidents last year, 7,791 sustained them while commuting. These accidents add to the costs incurred by the NSSF for treating workers, which amounted to more than $3 million last year, according to the report.
Collective Union of Movement of Workers director Pav Sina welcomed the training courses for drivers as a positive step that will help reduce traffic accidents but noted that vehicle inspection and safety is still lacking.
Sina says that based on his interviews with workers, “most of the drivers individually learn to drive without any driving school or tests”.
“They do not have the driver licences,” he continued, adding that most vehicles have not undergone inspections.
Ear Chariya, founder of the Road Safety Institute, echoed Sina’s concerns, saying that employers should not be hiring unlicensed drivers and that workers should not be transported in roofless trucks to begin with.
“It’s illegal according to the traffic law to carry people like animals, all standing,” he said, proposing that a possible solution could be for the government to subsidise the import tax on buses, incentivising their purchase by employers.
Additional reporting by Mech Dara