Representatives from the Transport Bureau (DSAT) and bus operator Transportes Urbanos De Macau; S.A.R.L. (Transmac) indicated today (Tuesday) they do not believe there is a correlation between the recent death of two of the company’s bus drivers and their work schedule.
Two Transmac drivers have died recently, with questions raised if the ‘4-4’ driving work shift they were included in had any relation to their deaths. Both drivers were apparently healthy, with one aged 30 and the other 40, the youngest having died during his sleep.
The special work shift requires drivers to work for approximately four hours in the morning and another four in the afternoon, both periods being peak traffic hours of the day, with a three to four-hour break in between.
Speaking today after a Traffic Council meeting, DSAT Director Lam Hin San indicated that about 20 per cent of all 1,400 bus drivers in the city took part in this special shift schedule, but that the system was in accordance with labour regulations and allowed drivers enough time to rest.
Lam also indicated that no drivers have so far issued complaints to the department concerning the ‘4-4’ scheme, which he said remained an optional shift.
Meanwhile, Transmac Deputy Manager, Kent Li, expressed his condolences for the death of the two drivers but was adamant he did not see a relation between their death and the ‘4-4’ schedule.
“Drivers work from 7:00am until noon and then rest three to four hours until their next shift until 7:00 or 8:00pm. We always communicate closely with drivers and pay close attention to their resting hours and make sure they have enough time to rest,” Li noted.
The Transmac representative notes that during that break period drivers can go home for lunch and then restart their shift. This is in order to assure service during rush hours.
Still, Li noted the company was discussing with drivers how to adjust work schedules for the Summer period when the number of passengers is usually lower during the school break.
The average daily passenger capacity of buses in Macau in the first half of the year was 545,000, about 89 per cent of the peak daily passenger capacity in 2019, with about 10,000 routes operated daily.
“We are very sad about the deaths of our colleagues. They were very hardworking. We carried out an investigation concerning if they had enough resting hours. However, both drivers died at home and not on the wheel,” Li added.
“We also checked in-vehicle footage and their driving did not show any issues related to tiredness […] I don’t believe they died because of the ‘4-4’ shift”
A report will be completed by the company on the special shift and provided to the DSAT, which will then provide recommendations on how to improve it.
Bus terminals were also described as having all the facilities for drivers to rest in-between shifts.
“Bus terminals now have fridges, water coolers, AC, and locations for lunch, better than they were 10 years ago”
Both drivers had also been vaccinated, but Li underlined the company had a flexible policy to provide leave days for drivers who had been vaccinated and required more time to rest.
According to the DSAT Director, efforts are ongoing to increase the rate of vaccinated bus drivers, with the vaccination rate for this labour sector said to only be about 40 per cent
Some bus drivers interviewed by news website Macao Conceallers indicated that drivers under some routes – routes in Coloane for example – have to spend an hour picking up the car, filling in the gas, and parking the car before and after their work shifts, time that is not included in their rest period.
In an inquiry to DSAT, legislator Agnes Lam also questioned if the heavy traffic during peak hours could also not lead to a shortening of the resting period for drivers under this work scheme.
Inquired about this issue, Li noted that in most cases parking the bus would take a maximum of 20 minutes, with enough time for rest.
The Transmac Deputy Director also noted that this special shift has been in place for almost 30 years.
About four Transmac drivers were said to be lined up for this special schedule, but six having requested to leave these schedules for personal reasons.
“They want to spend more time with their family […] We are very flexible to adjust work schedules,” he added.
Some drivers also indicated that since the basic salary of drivers is only MOP8,000 with the remainder the salary paid in the form of bonuses, including the attendance bonus and service award, which are divided into three parts of MOP5,000 each.
These full bonuses for a month can be lost if the driver takes a day of sick leave, which leads some drivers not to ask for leave even if they are tired or sick.