Overloaded buses warning issues

Public bus drivers in Samoa overload their vehicles with passengers in order to cover the high cost of running such a service in the country.

That is the view of Anthony Andersen, who is the 57-year-old owner of the local bus company Ai Ai Ava Transportation, in a telephone interview with the Samoa Observer.

He said Samoa’s famous wooden-rooftop buses can hold 33 passengers who sit on the seats or stands, but overloading has become an issue despite local laws making it illegal.

"But the bus drivers are overloading passengers in a bid to get their bus to make a profit," he said. “Like those buses come from Aleipata Village and the bus comes with 33 passengers that means it will not benefit the bus trip, and the bus would not pick up other people.”

While the buses are the main mode of transportation for ordinary Samoans, their operating costs are high for bus owners like Mr Andersen, as he said they have to budget for expenses such as oil, fuel and the servicing of the engines including brakes.

“Well another reason why bus drivers overload is because they are trying to cover the cost of the expensive needs of the bus, and if the bus is not overloaded there could be a shortfall [in revenue],” he added.

Nevertheless, Mr Andersen acknowledged the need for bus drivers and their operators to follow the law, and those who overloaded their buses will be penalised.

“Well there is a penalty to the driver when his caught with overload of passengers and there is a law for us owners to follow.”

The Land Transport Authority, in response to questions from this newspaper, said under the law regulating local traffic (Road Traffic Ordinance 1960, Regulation 1961 and Payment of Fines Act 2019) all buses should display the maximum number of passengers they can carry at any one time in the bus’ interior above the driver’s seat. There are penalties for bus drivers and owners that breach the traffic regulation.

According to 32-year-old Pito Alafosio of Falealili, who uses a bus every day to travel to town, it is time for bus owners and their drivers to apply the rules.

“Thirty-three seats of the bus means that there will be 33 passengers who should be on the bus,” he said. 

But at times the issue of overloading could be out of the bus drivers’ hands, added 32-year-old Johnny Silao, who says passengers still get on a bus even after it is overcrowded. 

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