Almost every day in the newspapers and on TV news, we read and hear about road accidents involving passenger buses and trucks that result in tragic fatalities and injuries.
Sometimes, it can be blamed on speeding, poorly maintained vehicles, the standard “lost its brakes” excuse and bald tires.
But often, these deadly incidents can be traced to drivers who do not have the training and skills to drive large vehicles safely.
It’s not unusual for a jeepney or taxi driver to switch to driving a bus or truck without taking any qualifying test or undergoing training on how to operate bigger vehicles.
On behalf of the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP), I have been proposing since last year that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) should add a fourth driver’s license, the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), to the three existing driver’s licenses (Student, Non-Professional and Professional) to make roads safer for all road users.
The LTO can take a leaf from California, where the Commercial Motor Vehicles Safety Program issues the CDL. A professional driver can obtain a CDL by taking and passing a test that exceeds federal standards since it requires special skills and aptitude to safely operate large trucks and buses.
A CDL is proof that a driver has the skills to safely drive large commercial motor vehicles including any vehicle (bus, farm labor machine, general public transit, etc.) designed, used or maintained to carry more than 10 passengers including the driver, for hire or profit, or used by a non-profit organization or group.
Under this standard, passenger buses and school buses should only be driven by professional drivers with a CDL.
The commercial motor vehicles category includes any vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more; tows any vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 or more pounds; tows more than one vehicle or a trailer bus; and/or carries hazardous wastes or material listed as a select agent or toxin.
Besides CDL, I suggest that a professional driver should: undergo Red Cross training on First Aid, rescue and response procedures in emergency situations since the driver is usually the first person present in an emergency – This is called “First Responder;” and drug testing, including those applying to renew their license.
I firmly believe that less road crashes would happen if the LTO requires bus and truck drivers to get a CDL, renewable yearly, and if the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board (LTFRB) properly checks the safety and roadworthiness of public utility vehicles before they leave their terminals.