MANILA, Philippines — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has suspended the entire fleet of the Nova Auto Transport firm after two of its buses figured in accidents just hours apart.
Already considered one of the most accident-prone bus companies in the country, Nova will see the operations of its entire fleet suspended for 30 days starting Thursday. During this time, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) will test the road-worthiness of the company’s fleet of 76 buses.
Nova’s drivers and conductors will also be told to attend driving seminars and be subjected to drug tests.
“A 30-day suspension was the maximum we could order pending an investigation on the individual accidents,” LTFRB Chairman James Jacob said.
“The accident with the motorcycle this morning was the 17th accident for Nova since 2009,” Jacob said on Wednesday, adding that Nova already occupied the 10th spot in an internal LTFRB list of companies with the most road accidents.
On Tuesday, the LTFRB issued a suspension order that covered only 10 buses in Nova’s fleet after a collision between buses owned by Nova and CEM Transit on East Avenue in Quezon City, injuring 23 people.
In the first hour of Wednesday, a man on a motorcycle was killed after being hit by a Nova bus on Belfast Avenue, also in Quezon City. This prompted the issuance of another order on Wednesday that covered the entire Nova fleet.
At the end of the 30-day investigation, Jacob said the LTFRB would decide on whether to penalize Nova for its role in the accidents.
Jacob admitted that policies aimed at reducing the number of road accidents, particularly the recent move outlawing commission-based salaries for bus company employees, have so far been ineffective.
Unfortunately, Jacob said the LTFRB had no authority to look into bus companies’ labor practices. That job, he said, fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
“We have the power to cancel franchises of non-compliant bus drivers, but as long as they have the compliance certificate from DOLE, then our hands are tied,” Jacob said.
He added that the rate of compliance to DOLE’s Department Order 118-12 or the Rules and Regulations Governing the Employment and Working Conditions of Drivers and Conductors in the Public Utility Bus Transport Industry, has been relatively low.
“Out of the 150 bus companies in Metro Manila, only 30 have complied,” Jacob said.
He said this was largely due to the discrepancy between the deadlines set by the LTFRB and the DOLE for the implementation of the new rule. Jacob said the LTFRB wanted fixed salaries for bus employees starting last November. DOLE, on the other hand, said it would be lenient in its implementation until the first quarter of 2013.
If the discrepancy was not addressed, bus companies would continue to pay their employees on commission—encouraging reckless driving in the race for passengers, Jacob said.