Lantau bus drivers are to get shorter shifts and longer breaks in the wake of the Tai Po bus disaster – but it may take more than a year.
Under new Transport Department guidelines, the maximum length of a driving shift has been reduced from 11 to 10 hours and rest breaks have been increased from 30 to 40 minutes.
Additionally, the maximum time on shift, including driving time and breaks, must be cut from 14 to 12 hours, drivers are to be allowed at least 22 hours in off-duty breaks every three successive shifts.
Nineteen people died and 65 were injured in the February 10 crash, in which a KMB bus overturned on Tai Po Road.
In a statement issued February 23, the New Lantao Bus Co “expressed its support and active cooperation” with the new rules.
“We will communicate with the bus captains as soon as possible and discuss the timing and details of the implementation of the new guidelines.”
The company said it would “endeavor to maintain existing services” while implementing the new rules.
It has plenty of time to do so, however. The new rules, which apply to all franchiced bus operators, do not have to be introduced until the second quarter of 2019.
But the reduction in driver shift times adds further financial pressure on NLB, a subsidiary of listed company Kwoon Chung Bus Holdings.
The Transport Department told it to cut costs after a “not satisfactory” first-half financial result three months ago. The new rules now introduce a further layer of costs.