'drivers must only do 8-hour shifts'

TRANSPORT Minister Sbu Ndebele has called for a partnership between his department and labour federation Cosatu to enforce the eight-hour shift rule for public transport drivers.

The call comes after another horrific accident involving a bus near Mthatha in Eastern Cape that claimed 10 lives on Saturday.

The number of deaths on South African roads this year is now close to 500.

Department spokesperson Logan Maistry said initial reports showed that fatigue might have contributed to the crash on Saturday.

The accident occurred after the driver of the bus lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a tavern.

"Public transport drivers cannot be allowed to work more than eight hours. They must refuse to work more than eight hours," Ndebele said yesterday.

"We cannot have drivers, especially of buses and taxis, driving hundreds of kilometres for several hours without a relief driver on board, because fatigue is a major contributory factor to road crashes."

The proposed partnership was in line with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act that strictly enforced rules for drivers of public transport vehicles, Ndebele said.

He also said no commercial plane, no matter how small, how short the distance or how few the number of passengers on board, was allowed to travel without a co-pilot.

"Why should land transport be any different? We want to repeat our call to public transport operators not to put profit above the lives of commuters and not to risk the lives of innocent commuters."

More than 400000 vehicles have been stopped and checked by traffic officers since December 1.

More than 2250 drunk drivers have been arrested around the country, Maistry said.

"About 100 motorists have been arrested for reckless and negligent driving," Maistry said. "More than 200 buses and 150 taxis have been removed from the roads and more than 500 unroadworthy vehicles suspended.

"Thousands of motorists were fined for speeding, not wearing seatbelts and other offences."

Road Traffic Management Authority spokesperson Thandi Moya said: "We caution drivers against drinking and driving and we urge them to rest every two hours. We have doubled police visibility on our roads."