Bus Operators Looking to Government for Support as Schools Start to Reopen

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The government is being urged to pay attention to the problems faced by bus operators during the schooling session amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in news reported by Bernama.

Federation of Malaysian School Bus Associations Facing Financial Difficulties due to Unpaid Fees

The Federation of Malaysian School Bus Associations president Amali Munif Rahmat explained that the main problem faced by bus operators at the moment was related to fees that were either partly or totally unpaid by parents. He said that more than 50 per cent of parents did not want to pay school bus service fees because of the rotation system used by the Ministry of Education (MOE) for the attendance of pupils in schools.

According to Amali Munif, school bus operators are seeing the fee collections barely reach half of the previous amount to cover the cost of providing the service.

"We have to pay the driver's salary in full for a month, not to mention the instalments. Financial institutions have already started asking when are we going to pay them. Schools have only begun opening today and they have already started asking us to pay," he said to Bernama.

Amali Munif said before the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented by the government in March 2020, there were about 16,000 school buses operating nationwide. Today, there are only around 8,000 still in operation.

According to Munif, there are also bus operators who are currently operating illegally to avoid incurring the high costs of operating with a licence. "This is because, as a legal operator, you have to pay for the Computerised Vehicle Inspection Centre (Puspakom) fee, insurance and other costs which make the overheads much higher. The number of illegal operators is increasing because many have been laid off.

"So that's why some operators have raised fares because they need to cover their overheads. When we cannot cover our overheads, we incur a loss. How many times should we incur losses, as we have already made a loss during the MCO previously?" he argued.

Government Support a Key Step to Helping Provide Industry Stability

Amali Munif suggested that the government includes the operation of school buses as a necessary service to enable the group to be given priority when it comes to providing assistance.

"In the 2022 Budget, there is no mention of assistance for school buses. It means the government does not consider us a necessary service, when in reality, if we do not operate, many government agencies will be in disarray because there will not be enough staff when parents themselves send and pick up their children from school," said Amali Munif.

The MOE on 31st December explained that for secondary schools for the third term of the 2021/2022 schooling session involving students of transition classes, Forms 4 to 6, pre-university, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) and equivalent international examination, all students must attend class face to face without any rotation if the vaccination rate has reached 90 per cent or above.

However, according to the MOE, educational institutions under the ministry for the term not yet at the 90 per cent threshold of vaccination would remain operating on a rotation basis.

On 24th December, the MOE announced that the third term of the schooling session would begin on 9th January for group A, namely Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, and 10th January for group B, namely Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of Malaysian School Bus Associations (GPBSM) president Mohd Rofik Mohd Yusof said the demand for school bus service was not very encouraging at present, while operators also faced difficulty paying maintenance costs as well as renewing their insurance.

According to Mohd Rofik, the action of parents who were hesitant to pay fees due to the rotation system implemented by the MOE also did not help. "We pay insurance, road tax, Puspakom for a year. Parents should at least pay a full months’ fee, because, for the school bus operators, it’s their only source of income.

"We request the government to provide school bus operators nationwide with subsidised diesel at RM 1 per litre. In the current situation, the demand is also not there, as many seem to be scared of COVID-19," he added.

Mohd Rofik said it was understood that on average, there were less than 10 pupils and students per bus using the service, making it more difficult for them to continue operating.


About the author

Adrian, located in Madrid, is joining the editorial team as a correspondent for the Valebridge Publications Ltd Group. Before starting in 2020 for Truck & Bus News, Adrian graduated with an English degree before working within marketing and recruitment in the non-profit sector. Recently he changed direction, undertaking a course in Marketing and International Business as a means towards moving into the journalism field, which he counts as his lifelong ambition.

Email: adrian.stuart@retreadingbusiness.com

Phone: (44) 1270 668 718

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