No TESDA certificate, no buses on Metro Manila roads in 2013

PUBLIC utility buses (PUB) in Metro Manila will not be allowed to ply their routes starting in 2013 unless their drivers are trained, assessed and certified by the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).

Former Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Alberto Suansing said this is in preparation for the implementation of a new directive from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) requiring all PUB drivers nationwide to be certified by 2013.

“By January 2013 buses will no longer be allowed to ply all roads unless they show that their drivers possess genuine National Certificate (NC lll).

“In Metro Manila all bus drivers must be NC lll certified by next year,” said Suansing said in an interview Monday at the TESDA main office in Taguig city where he served as one of the speakers in the opening of the driving and road safety training for bus drivers conducted by TESDA.

Suansing who is now serving as a consultant at the DOTC and president of the Safety Organization of the Philippines (SOPI) said that bus owners and operators who will refuse to comply with the new regulation may face penalties ranging from suspension to revocation of their franchise.

“Either suspension or revocation of their franchise will will be given to habitual offenders. We can also revoke their franchise,” he said, adding that the soon-to-be-announced measures are just series of programs that the government will implement to reform the country’ s public transportation sector to prevent fatal road accidents caused by lack of driving skills among others.

LTFRB records showed that there are 15, 557 authorized buses in Metro Manila with 31, 074 drivers at two drivers per bus. Nationwide, there were 27, 815 buses and 55, 630 drivers.

Data of accidents for the past five year showed the two major causes of road accidents—driving error and equipment (bus) defects-accounted for almost 90 percent, with driver error accounting for over 82 percent of all accidents.

The other causes were road condition, climatic condition and pedestrians and animals.

To ensure that bus owners and operators will comply with the directive, Suansing said the DOTC will require them to submit the names of their drivers to the department adding that this will be complemented by traffic enforcers doing spot checking on the drivers on the road.

Suansing said Monday’s start of the bus drivers training is just one part of the measures to improve road safety in the country, a point echoed by TESDA Executive Director Gabriel Genaro Bordado who said that the agency will train a total of 70 trainors and assessors for NC III nationwide so that they can impart the knowledge gained to their colleagues.

The training program for the prospective trainors/assessors will be done in two stages; Stage One, (from January 17 to 19), will focus on Safe, Economical and Environment-Friendly Driving (SEED); and Stage Two, (from January 20 to 22), will be on the Assessment Moderation and Conduct of National Certification (NC) III Assessment.

TESDA said there will be two Training Regulations for Driving NC III– ( for Bus Drivers and Straight Truck) and Driving NC III ( for Articulated Vehicles). Likewise, there will be separate assessment instruments for the two qualifications,” he further explained.

Likewise, the training duration for bus and truck drivers will also be shortened from 140 hours to 122 hours.

For those who fail during training and assessment, a requirement before they can be assessed will be made to undergo the same procedure Bordado said adding that the assessment cost only P500 per driver though he said bus operators have already pledged to shoulder the amount.

Villanueva had committed to provide free technical assistance for these drivers following a request by DOTC Secretary Jose de Jesus for TESDA to certify bus and truck drivers nationwide within the next two years.

The agency said it will mobilize its personnel in its 85 district offices to help in the training and assessment program though Villanueva has reiterated his call to operators to help in shouldering the cost of training for the rest, citing constraints in funds.

The agency has a P2.8 billion funding this year of which P700 million are allocated for the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) down from the 2009 level of P5.6 billion and P200 million for the Private Education Student Financial Assistance (PESFA) while only P20 million goes to capital outlay or the acquisition of new equipment.

The rest goes to personnel services (salaries, wages) and maintenance.

Jun Ranido, operator of the N. De La Rosa Liner plying the Lucena City-Manila route with more than a hundred buses said they supports the government’s training program.

“The training is in line with the government’s plan to lessen accidents and death on the roads,” he said in an interview outside the TESDA center where the initial phase of the training is being held.

But he said the government is mistaken if it believes such a program is a cure-all to all the problems facing the country’s public transportation sector adding that teaching drivers proper skills and road safety guidelines should be accompanied by other measures such as upgrading the quality of roadways in the country, especially in far-flung areas.

“The Department of Public Works and Highways(DPWH) should be part of this training because one of the factors that greatly contribute to road accidents is the quality of roads.

“Most of the roads are neglected, especially those in the provinces which makes travel difficult because of large potholes, landslides and deteriorating condition that remain unrepaired for sometime,” he added.

At the same time, Ranido said the 2013 deadline for all bus drivers to be NC-certified is achievable, adding that bus operators were already conducting their own trainings before the explosion of public outcry generated by the series of fatal accidents involving PUBs in recent weeks.

For his part, Homer Mercado of the South Luzon Bus Operators Association (SOLUBOA) said they will train their drivers in their own facility before undergoing the TESDA training and assessment phase to ensure that they would be qualified for certification.PNA

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