Regulations for a professional transport industry :
Tight laws for bus drivers from 2015
Department of Motor Traffic
S. H. Harishchandra
Sri Lanka is a country where majority of its population depends on
the public transportation services. Except for five million registered
vehicles in the country, over 10 million people rely on several hundred
trains and around 100,000 buses both belonging to the Ceylon Transport
Board and the private bus owners. Therefore the importance of the
service rendered by these public transportation modes is not little. But
it is questionable whether a sophisticated and a satisfiable service is
provided to the public for the price they pay for their trip.
Many would agree that the bus service in the country especially the
private sector is appalling.
The general conduct of the bus operators towards the commuters is
disrespectful and the driving behavioural patterns of the drivers
disgusting. Drivers of these infamous heavy vehicles have invaded roads
like unleashed cattle causing panic to the law abiding drivers as well
as disturbing the regular flow of motor traffic. The number of accidents
being reported everyday over the negligence and ignorance of these
drivers is not decreasing. And there is not much the law enforcement
authorities could do by acting according to the prevailing laws against
these errant drivers. Inculcating good driving manners among them is a
To address this plight the Minister of Transport introduced a new set
of guidelines which is compulsory when issuing license to public
transport drivers in the future. A Cabinet Paper submitted to amend the
criteria of issuing the bus drivers license was approved in February and
these new guidelines will be put into practice by January 1, 2015. The
Ministry of Transport through the amendment had given specific
instructions to the Department of Motor Traffic (DMT) on how to act in
issuing a drivers license to a public transport vehicles and what
factors should be considered in doing so.
According to the new law, all passenger transporting vehicles
including CTB and private buses, motor coaches as well as school vans
will be subjected to this check in the future.
Although there will be no separate class of license for these
drivers, the same license would be endorsed by the Commissioner General
of Motor Traffic for those who have complied with the new regulations.
Explaining about these new criterion, the Commissioner General of Motor
Traffic Department S H Harishchandra said the chief motive behind
setting up these guidelines was due to the increasing number of road
accidents committed by errant drivers of which a significant number were
The lack of road discipline and ignorance towards the traffic laws in
a highly competitive world would create a mere bunch of individuals who
would only know how to drive a vehicle but no professionalism can be
expected from them. Apart from the accidents various anti-social
activities do take place inside these passenger transport vehicles
involving unprofessional drivers and their assistants or ticket
Many stories heard from the free trade zones countrywide where female
factory employees are being subjected to various harassment and abuse
inside these vehicles especially at night was another reason for these
criterion to be introduced.
There are heavy penalties for drunk driving in Sri Lanka but the
tendency to consume narcotics whilst on duty is a serious offence that
go unnoticed by many law enforcement authorities on many occasions.
According to reports, about 50 percent of the passenger transporting
drivers drive under the influence of various narcotics.
These regulations have been made by Minister of Transport under the
Section 237 of the Motor Traffic Act (Chapter 203) read with Section
128A of the aforesaid Act was publicised through an Extraordinary
Gazette dated February 06, 2014. According to this, no holder of a
license for any class or classes of vehicles shall drive a motor coach
as a public service vehicle for carriage of passengers unless he is
authorised by a special endorsement from the Commissioner General under
the Section 128A.
"Any holder of a license for any class or classes of vehicles who
intends to drive any public service vehicle for carriage of passengers
shall make an application to the Commissioner General in the form as set
out in the schedule to these regulations together with the payment of
Rs.2,000 as a levy for the issue of special endorsement by the
"The following requirements and the qualifications shall be fulfilled
by an applicant to obtain a special endorsement to drive a motor coach
as a public service vehicle and the applicant shall prove to the
satisfaction of the Commissioner General that he is a person of age
between 23 and 65 years ( both inclusive); has obtained two years
driving experience after obtained a regular driving license for a motor
coach; has obtained a medical certificate issued by the National
Transport Medical Institute or any other institution authorised in
writing by the Commissioner General; has completed a first aid course
conducted by the National Transport Medical Institute or any other
institution authorised in writing by the Commissioner General to conduct
such course; has passed the medical knowledge examination conducted by
the Commissioner General or any other institution authorised by him in
that behalf; has successfully completed a training course conducted by
an institution authorised in writing by the Commissioner General to
conduct such training course and has no criminal record under any law in
force in Sri Lanka".
Elaborating on these regulations Commissioner General Harishchandra
said the prime intention of the department is to create a professional
public service driver in the future. He said presently the attitude of
these drivers and especially the ticket conductors towards the commuters
is highly dissatisfying.
How they address a commuter is not acceptable and no respect is shown
to the passengers. If there is a feeble passenger or a clergy waiting at
the bus halt some drivers do not even stop the bus thinking it would be
a hassle. Most drivers do not even care to stop and let the passengers
disembark as they are reluctant to stop whilst racing with other buses.
Also excessive honking of the horn in an impatient manner would not only
irritate others but also cause damages to ones health as well.
The DMT believes that a future driver should be able to attend to his
vehicle during a breakdown instead of waiting for secondary assistance.
And the knowledge in first aid would help them tend to any injured
passenger after an accident whilst waiting for the paramedics. And the
special training on behavioural conduct would help them render an
ethical and better service to the commuters with a professional
Also the passenger transporting drivers will be given a special
training on how to adhere to different situations like day-to-day
general commuter transporting, transporting passengers on a private
entertaining excursion, etc. Understanding each driver's psychological
condition is important in this regard which will be conducted in the
specialised training sessions.