The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has issued a public call for the owners and operators of the trucks used to transport factory workers to consider using buses, in order to improve the safety and comfort of commuting workers.

Heng Sophannarith, NSSF deputy director-general and chairman of the Road Safety Working Group for Workers, chaired a recent meeting which aimed to gather input and find solutions to the issue.

He took to social media on December 26 to explain that the meeting attendants sought to identify measures that would promote a shift from open truck beds to more comfortable buses with seats.

“We encourage the owners of trucks that are used to transport workers to begin using vehicles which meet the technical specifications of commercial passenger vehicles that are safe and comfortable,” he said.

Kong Athit, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Worker’s Democratic Union (CCAWDU), said that although some factories have taken the positive step of replacing their open-bed trucks with buses, there are many drivers who do not comply with traffic laws and drive dangerously.

“The NSSF’s encouragement is a good thing, but we hope that the government will invest more in the safe travel of factory workers. The road accident rate among workers is a chronic problem which requires the attention of all stakeholders,” he added.

Athit noted that additional investment needs to be aimed at ensuring that all factories and large enterprises switch from trucks to safer, passenger-friendly vehicles.

Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, agreed that the issue of traffic safety for factory workers remains a major challenge which requires more measures to be taken, although he noted that Cambodia is experiencing some success in resolving some road safety issues.

He explained that while accidents involving trucks and buses still occur, they have reduced in number. He warned, however, that more and more accidents are being recorded among factory workers who commute to work on motorcycles.

“Resolving the Kingdom’s road toll will require more measures, as well as the involvement of all relevant institutions. We all need to work together to support efforts to ensure the safety of road users in Cambodia, especially factory workers and young people,” he said.

According to Pagna, his organisation is currently implementing a project that will see 43 target factories in Phnom Penh and six provinces – Kandal, Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Cham, Takeo and Svay Rieng – and the use of large trucks to transport workers, and replace them with safer buses.

He added that although the project only encompasses 43 factories at this time, the AIP intends to expand it nationwide.

Pagna warned that every day in Cambodia, more than 700,000 garment workers put their lives at risk when travelling to work on congested and dangerous roads to earn a living to support their families.

The AIP has observed that more than 20 per cent of those killed on the roads in Cambodia are factory workers, the majority of them women.