Overworked and poorly paid drivers of heavy vehicles an accident waiting to happen

SINGAPORE: When a truck collided with Marcus Loke and two of his friends on the West Coast Highway in 2016, he barely escaped death.

The first few days in the hospital were "very difficult" for the then 17-year-old, who kept wondering about his friends Ong Zi Quan, 19, and Ang Yee Fong, 25. They had traveled home from his grandmother on their strength -assistent cycling.

When the police told him about their death, he cried, the pain in his heart came on top of his leg injuries.

READ: e-bike fatalities on the West Coast: fatigue may have caused the driver to fall asleep, says coroner

The driver was brought to justice in April. Today, whenever Mr. Loke sees trucks approaching, his first thought is "putting aside". He said: "Sometimes I see those truck drivers and I think they are driving a bit too fast."

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Mr. Marcus Loke with Talking Point host Diana Ser.

Certainly, heavy vehicles claim a disproportionate number of lives. They constitute five percent of the vehicle population, but have been involved in three of the ten fatal traffic accidents in the last two years.

Last year, there were 764 accidents involving heavy vehicles, 34 of which were fatal.

In June, a chain collision with a truck left one person dead on Tanah Merah Coast Road. Two months earlier, a truck collided with a father, daughter and family friend near Yio Chu Kang Station and killed them.

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The truck that ran on three pedestrians on Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 on 23 April.

Why do these vehicles change the roads in sudden deadly traps? Are heavier drivers more reckless? As the Talking Point program discovers, there is a vicious cycle in the industry that may put other drivers and pedestrians at risk. (View the episode here.)

There are also solutions that can help prevent accidents and make roads safer, but more can be done.


The experience of Ravi (not his real name), a truck driver for three years, is instructive. His normal working hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, but the 31-year-old then works five to six hours overtime to earn more money.

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Ms Ser chatting with "Ravi" at 11.45 pm after he finished working.

Driving so long means that he is tired, because he has to keep pushing and release the clutch when there is a lot of traffic. His concentration, for example on his blind spots, is gradually affected.

The migrant worker said he was not involved in an accident but knows about other drivers who, due to fatigue and carelessness; for example, they did not keep a good view of pedestrians.

Ravi works longer than the legal limits, that is 12 hours a day and 72 hours of overtime in a month for employees like him. Beyond that, companies must appeal to the Manpower Ministry for an exemption.

He understands that this is the law, but he said, "Not just me, but many people also work long days."

When Talking Point asked other drivers, they also said that they sometimes work 14 or 15 hours a day. One of them, who occasionally causes headache and back pain, said:

Sometimes I take a tablet (Panadol), sometimes an energy drink.

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Another driver who sometimes works more than 12 hours a day.

Another driver, on how his boss would respond to complaints of fatigue, mentioned threats to send him back to his homeland.

Their long working day is a "free general theme" among migrant workers, said Dr. Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, the president of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). "These employees do not have much choice."

In the case of drivers, she noted that the safety problem applies not only to them but also to others. She quoted a recent case from a driver who told TWC2 that he was forced to work despite having a medical certificate.

"That's why he got involved in an accident, so this is something that's unfair to him," she added.

The employers have the balance of power. The law is actually clear about the maximum working hours (and) overtime that an employee can do, so they have to comply with it.

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The man killed on Tanah Merah Coast Road helped the driver of the dump truck, which had crashed when the collision took place.


Mr. Daniel Chew, a corporate consultant at the Singapore Logistics Association, agreed that the legal requirements and experience with fatigue drivers are well known in the industry.

The reason that overtime is still "fairly widespread", he said, is that "many companies are struggling" with a lack of drivers. So they & # 39; get around & # 39; the law by turning split services.

Workers would start at six o'clock in the morning and work for about six hours, followed by a break before they would work for six hours. "It is still within the law because the actual working hours are 12," he added.

"The problem is that (during) the four o'clock in the middle of the day for these drivers, they do not really need much time to rest, sometimes they do other work, or are they involved in other things."

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Mr. Daniel Chew.

It is a recipe for disaster, he agreed.

Only a second-rate type of negligence can result in a very serious accident, especially when the vehicle is very large.

The way in which drivers are paid is another problem. To save money, some employers keep base salaries low, between S $ 1500 and S $ 2000 per month. But drivers can increase their income if they make more trips.

To do that, they have to "drive fast", a driver admitted. That is why Mr Chew has previously called for a refurbishment of the traditional incentive structure, suggesting three alternative models.

These are: pay per distance traveled, regardless of the number of trips made; paying by teams instead of individuals to reduce the competitive nature of the drivers; and pay through conformity, rewarding those who drive below the speed limit.

Drivers themselves recognize the current problem, besides the fact that there are people who are reckless. He said: "Honestly, (getting paid per ride) is more dangerous."

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How else can the roads be safer? By installing security equipment, such as logistic service provider Bok Seng Group has done for its fleet.

READ: Trucking along: Logistic companies invest in tools to improve road safety

In addition to gadgets that control speed, there is anti-fatigue technology, such as a camera on board that is aimed at the driver to detect dozing. It would make a squealing noise and he would be awakened by a vibration.

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Technologies to monitor speeding and fatigue.

A signal would also be sent to the office. If he nods again, a response center from the Australian security technology company would call Bok Seng's health and safety department about the tired driver.

"Then we would call the controller to check if this driver has a problem, such as sleepiness," said Bok Seng Group, health and safety senior manager Steven Tan, 43.

The installation costs per vehicle are approximately S $ 4000, and the company spent more than S $ 200,000 on safety provisions last year. "The costs are a bit pricey, but we can not compare the price with the cost of a life," he added.

The result: a drop of 33 percent in cases of fatigue of the driver within six months, on top of speed incidents that have decreased by 80 percent in the past four years.

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Three other companies have been testing speed-tracking devices in 30 vehicles up to this month, in cooperation with the traffic police, which seeks to find a technology to supplement or replace the speed limiters in heavy vehicles to curb speed overruns.

READ: Speed-tracking devices for heavy vehicles on trial until August

The combination of speeding and fatigue can have disastrous consequences. Tired drivers may suffer from tunnel vision – see what is on the front, but no vehicles or people on the sides.

A tired brain also causes errors of judgment, such as not being able to judge a person's speed or braking distance and turning too fast or going too fast during the run, said Singapore Group, operational leader of the Safety Driving Center, Low Kar Yoong.

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A cardboard recess of a pedestrian standing on the pavement. The rear tire of the truck would mount the curb in the stand-up if the driver did not make a good impression during running.

From her conversations with drivers of heavy vehicles, Talking Point host Diana Ser thinks that more needs to be done "to tackle something that seems like a systemic mistake".

"Some of our heavy-vehicle drivers are downright exhausted, and companies need to be held accountable – after all, one death on the road is one too many," she said.

View this episode of Talking Point here. New episodes every Thursday at 9.30 pm on Mediacorp Channel 5.

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