LCQ2: Bus captains' rest time, working hours and rest facilities
According to the Guidelines on Bus Captain Working Hours, Rest Times and Meal Breaks (the Guidelines) issued by the Transport Department (TD), the longest duty hours of a bus captain in a working day should not exceed 14 hours, of which driving time should not account for more than 11 hours. Some representatives of bus staff unions have pointed out that bus captains currently work for 10 hours a day on average and, given their low basic salaries, it is very common for them to request to work overtime in order to earn additional income. However, unduly long duty hours will result in bus captains driving in a persistent state of fatigue, which makes traffic accidents prone to occur. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the number of traffic accidents involving the buses of each of the franchised bus companies in each of the past three years, as well as the average ages of the bus captains involved and the number of hours they had worked on average in the week prior to the accidents;
(2) whether TD will amend the Guidelines to stipulate that bus captains must not be allowed to work overtime for a period of time after working consecutively for more than 10 hours each day for a specified number of days, so as to prevent them from driving in a persistent state of fatigue; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether TD will request the various franchised bus companies to improve the remuneration of bus captains, increase their rest times and enhance the rest room facilities for them; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
A serious traffic accident happened in Sham Shui Po on September 22 which resulted in heavy casualties. We are deeply saddened by the accident. Our reply to part (1) of the question by the Dr Hon Chiang requesting the provision of statistical data is given in Annex 1. The consolidated reply to other parts of the question is as follows.
At present, franchised bus companies shall ensure that the duty rosters of bus captains are in compliance with the requirements as stipulated in the Guidelines on Bus Captain Working Hours, Rest Times and Meal Breaks (the Guidelines) formulated by the Transport Department (TD). The current version of the Guidelines was promulgated for implementation in October 2010 following a review by TD, franchised bus companies and staff unions for bus captains (staff unions) and upon consultation with the Panel on Transport of the Legislative Council. The text of the Guidelines is at Annex 2. According to the Guidelines, the maximum duty (including all rest times) of a bus captain in a working day should not exceed 14 hours, whereas driving duty should not exceed 11 hours. Franchised bus companies must adhere to the Guidelines when arranging duty rosters for their bus captains and submit reports on the implementation of the Guidelines to TD quarterly. TD also engages independent contractors to carry out annual field surveys so as to assess the actual situation of the compliance with the Guidelines by the franchised bus companies.
Since the accident, the arrangements in respect of the rest time and working hours of bus captains have attracted public concerns. In this regard, the Government is conducting a thorough review of the content of the Guidelines. We will take into account the views and concerns of various stakeholders, with specific attention to the following six fundamental considerations:
(1) the operational safety and service reliability of franchised buses;
(2) the driving safety and healthy lifestyle of franchised bus captains, especially in terms of balance between working hours and rest time as well as avoiding long hours of driving duties for a prolonged period by bus captains;
(3) the flexibility of franchised bus operators in their daily operations (such as staff deployment and vehicle allocation) for meeting passenger demand during different periods of the day;
(4) the views of the franchised bus sector and staff unions for bus captains on revising the Guidelines;
(5) the implications of revising the Guidelines to the overall operating status of the franchised bus sector; and
(6) if revising the Guidelines will necessitate the employment of additional staff by franchised bus operators for sustaining their existing services, consideration will be given to how to implement the revision as soon as practicable, while affording franchised bus companies appropriate buffer for making transitional arrangements (such as the recruitment, training and assessment of bus captains, re-arranging the allocation of buses and re-arranging duty rosters).
The Government met the representatives of the staff unions and franchised bus companies many times to listen to their views and concerns on the review on the existing Guidelines, with a view to improving the work-life balance of bus captains. In our meetings with the staff unions, we listened to their views on improvements to the Guidelines and their suggestions on other aspects; whereas in our meetings with the franchised bus companies, the bus companies concurred that there would be room for improving the requirements concerning working hours in the current version of the Guidelines. They were willing to further discuss in this regard. TD will continue to engage the staff unions and franchised bus companies for in-depth discussions. It will vigorously review how the Guidelines can be specifically revised on the basis of the aforesaid six fundamental considerations. We hope to achieve fruitful outcome at the soonest and brief the Council and the public as soon as practicable.
Apart from the arrangements in respect of the rest times and working hours of bus captains, the Government also cares for the overall well-being of bus captains. On the premise that the Guidelines are fulfilled, the specific employment arrangements for bus captains (including working hours, salaries and allowances, duty rosters, etc.) are subject to agreement between franchised bus companies and bus captains. The Government has all along urged the franchised bus companies, as responsible enterprises, to ensure not only the safety of bus operation, but also the occupational safety and health of their bus captains as well as their work-life balance. Suitable rest facilities should also be provided at bus termini. In fact, of the 295 bus termini in Hong Kong, 252 (about 85 per cent) are provided with resting rooms for bus captains, while rest facilities are generally part of the basic ancillary facilities when new bus termini are built. A small number of bus termini do not have rest facilities for bus captains probably owing to the physical constraints at individual sites or the views of the neighbourhood. Should bus companies apply for the provision of rest facilities at existing bus termini, TD would co-ordinate with the relevant Government departments as appropriate in the course of vetting such applications. Meanwhile, TD would also liaise closely with the franchised bus companies to assist them in canvassing support from the local communities. Where necessary, TD will arrange stakeholders, such as relevant District Council members and residents' organisations, to attend site visits with representatives of franchised bus companies to explore feasible solutions for erection of the rest facilities, with a view to expediting the implementation of the plans for addition of rest facilities to benefit both bus captains and passengers.
Last but not least, while the review of the Guidelines is in progress, the Government hopes that the franchised bus companies can improve the duty rosters and the arrangements on working hours and rest time of bus captains, bearing in mind that the well-being of the public should always come first. We would also like to take the opportunity to appeal to all drivers to give due regard to road safety and to drive safely.
Ends/Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:10
Issued at HKT 15:10