During the Covid-19 pandemic, our bus drivers have met with a few challenges. First, they found themselves suddenly thrust at the frontlines as essential workers. Then, when a Covid outbreak happened at the bus interchanges, they were met with manpower shortage. On top of being worried about catching the virus, they had to put in extra hours to ensure that buses continued running for commuters.
Common challenges faced by bus drivers
Bus drivers often face the following challenges:
- Long working hours
- Not being paid overtime (even though MOM states that a workman with a basic pay under $4500 is entitled to an overtime pay of 1.5 times their hourly rate)
- Verbal abuse from passengers
- Lack of training leading to them stagnating in career
Making the career as a bus driver more attractive to Singaporeans
Executive secretary of the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) Melvin Yong shared that the pandemic has led to more locals becoming bus drivers. He added that competitive salaries have also made the industry more attractive.
As at September 2021, about 54 per cent of the 9,500 public bus drivers here are locals, LTA said. Around 500 Singaporeans and PRs have been hired as bus captains from Jan to Sept (2021).
SBS Transit (SBST) said, “Unfortunately, with higher education and employment opportunities, it has been a challenge to recruit younger Singaporeans and PRs to join the industry.” SBST added that it had put together a package to make the sector more appealing to those in their 30s and 40s. This includes structured training programmes and career progression so bus drivers can move up to executive and managerial positions.
Tower Transit said it employs 1.9 locals for every foreign bus driver, up from 1.85 last year and 1.79 in 2019.
Go-Ahead said it has increased its proportion of local drivers from 60 to 65 per cent since the start of last year and hired 225 new bus drivers, most of whom are locals. “With the Covid-19 situation, we are able to attract more locals to join the industry,” the firm said.
NTWU’s Mr Yong said public transport operators are receiving more applications from Singaporeans who want to be bus drivers. However, it has been a challenge retaining manpower and restrictions on who are eligible to apply for the vocational licence have limited the talent pool. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs have said that they would change the rule. This would allow those with a Class 3A driving licence to be eligible for a Class 4A omnibus licence.
Success story: Mr Muhammad Afiq Noorazman
Mr Muhammad Afiq Noorazman initially wanted to join the aviation sector but Covid-19 has affected his plans. Nevertheless, Mr Afiq is happy that he has become a bus driver. After a year with Go-Ahead, he intends to stay for another two to three years.
He cited the biggest challenge as having to adapt to the long shifts. Mr Afiq works from 6am to 10am and from 4pm to 8pm on weekdays. He is happy with his pay of $3300 a month which includes overtime pay and bonuses. He said this rate is comparable with what a fresh polytechnic graduate would earn.
“My family is very supportive of my career right now because I am making an honest living and I can provide some income for the family as well,” he said.
6 Struggles Food Delivery Workers Face They Wish You Knew
Editing is my work.