It all started when a tour bus on its way to Tokyo Disneyland crashed into a retaining wall, killing seven passengers, and injuring the remaining 38 aboard. An audit by the Kanto Regional Transport Bureau has revealed that Rikuentai, the company that owned the bus had violated scores of laws and regulations set by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. The police arrested the president of the tour bus company, Yumihide Hariu, but it doesn’t take away the fact that stiff competition has driven almost all bus operators to callously flout rules.
Passengers opt for cheaper overnight bus journeys instead of the expensive shinkansen and air travels. According to the new directive, all long haul expressway busses are required to have a relief driver present in the bus running distances over 400 km. This is however causing a third of the chartered bus firms to stop offering expressway services, since they are no longer commercially viable. Intense competition has led many bus companies to flout some of the rules laid down by the ministry as they prove to be effective in cost cutting.
According to a government report that was released recently, out of the 298 chartered bus companies surveyed, almost 84% were violating bus-safety regulations. Around 48 companies were considered as repeat violators with violations as serious as including excessive driving hours and lack of proper instruction and supervision of drivers. More than 20 chartered bus companies employed drivers on a daily basis. Overworked drivers are considered to be the prime reason for the cause of accidents. Hopefully the new safety rule enforced will ensure passenger safety and reduce driver’s negligence while driving.