BUTTERWORTH: It’s a vicious cycle that has ultimately led to bigger traffic snarls during rush hour.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more parents prefer to send their children to school in their own cars instead of using school buses.
Meanwhile, many schoolbus drivers also quit their jobs in view of the uncertain income amid the pandemic, which means that parents who need their services now can no longer find them as easily.
Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Association president Amali Munif Rahmat said that about 40% of the 16,000 registered schoolbus operators nationwide had turned to other jobs since the first movement control order two years ago.
“About 6,000 schoolbus drivers have quit. They got fed up with the uncertainty over their income, so they went for jobs that offer financial stability amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in an interview.
Amali said the association had been receiving queries from parents who couldn’t get school buses to ferry their children to schools from where they live.
“Because of this, many parents have to send their children to schools by themselves or engage the services of private or e-hailing vehicles. This has led to higher traffic volume on the road,” he added.
He said the school bus ranges from the 12-passenger vans up to large buses that can carry 44 passengers.
“A large school bus at full passenger capacity can remove 30 cars from the road,” he added.
Amali also said some parents are not willing to agree to the monthly fees due to the uncertain schooling period.
“It will take months before more schoolbus operators return to normal.
“Besides paying maintenance for buses, drivers also need to send their buses to the authorities for re-evaluation purposes.
“Drivers need to be convinced that there is strong demand for the services or they will leave for new occupations,” he added.
Amali said schoolbus operators follow strict Covid-19 protocols. As such, parents need not be worried about their children’s health and safety.
“If there is an outbreak within a bus, it cannot continue to operate and causes a loss of income.
“We hope parents can embrace the country’s transition to the endemic stage and have faith in our services,” he added.
Penang Traffic Enforcement Investigation Department head Supt Zafri Zokapli said there has been an increase in traffic since the reopening of schools.
“For now, many parents still prefer to send and pick up their children from school to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection.
“School buses would definitely help to reduce the number of private vehicles waiting within the school vicinity,” he said.