I appreciate the professional expertise and experiences of our passenger bus drivers today who have made our public transport service much safer than what it used to be until about two decades ago. The concerned authorities have learned lessons from all the fatal road accidents we had in the past and as a result, bus accidents have become very rare over the recent years. However, safety alone is not enough for the passengers to have a journey worth the fare they have paid. The general comfort during the ride should also be equally considered because as a paid traveller, each passenger is entitled to it. In addition to having comfortable seats, the general attitude of the drivers towards their passengers is also equally important.
I am not saying that all the drivers are not friendly to their passengers, but I have seen some who do not even utter a word to their passengers during the entire journey. Forget about chatting with the nearby passengers, they don’t even announce that they have stopped for lunch. They simply stop the bus, get out of their door and leave for the hotel. The passengers travelling through that route for the first time would know that it’s lunch time only when those passengers who are familiar with the place start getting out shouting “lunch lunch”. . The same thing happens when they stop for toileting on the way as though the passengers do not need to urinate or shit. Moreover, I have noticed that some of the drivers do not even care if all the passengers have boarded the bus when they start to move and often someone has to shout that somebody is missing.
Sometime ago, there was an outcry on social media about how drivers have their own choice of hotels to stop at for meals no matter how expensive are they for the passengers or how bad is the quality of food served. I think this is true because I know drivers get special service in any hotel for bringing in their passengers and on top of the free service, they even get some commission from the hotel managers in return as part of the deal that they have to always bring in their passengers. A bus driver with whom I had become close during a tour last year had told me that he gets some commission from the hotels where he stops for meals and I figured out this must be the same with all other bus drivers. But I have nothing against this practice as long as the drivers care about the quality of food their passengers are served. The drivers must agree to the deal on the condition that their passengers are served good food and that they should not hear their passengers complaining about the quality of food including the overall hygene in the hotel. When the passengers complain, the drivers must respect their views and find alternative places to stop for meals instead of defending their choice of hotels. I know there are hotels where drivers always stop their vehicles for meals although the food served is never good and price is always high. The drivers would hardly realize the difference in food quality because they often get special food prepared separately for them.
It’s not ethical on the part of the drivers to ignore the needs of their passengers. The safety and comfort of the passengers right from the departure point to the destination should be the responsibility of the drivers at the wheel. Holding a driving license alone does not make you a professional driver. A professional driver must be someone who can demonstrate a perfect blend of practical driving skills and basic human values. I had heard of a driver who had even set up a microphone in his bus to entertain his passengers as he drove. He would continuously talk to his passengers and keep them entertained so that they would not feel bored on a long and tedious journey. I feel this is very good initiative as long as the driver does not get too much engrossed in the talk and lose his focus. We feel more comfortable and safe with friendly drivers who would talk to us and let us know when we stop for lunch or for some other purposes. This would not only make the passengers feel warm and comfortable, but it would also keep the drivers themselves active so that they would not feel sleepy or bored. I strongly believe that such components should be part of the training or induction courses conducted by relevant authorities for the drivers of public transport services in Bhutan.