May 19, 2012
Japanese Communist Party representative Kokuta Keiji on May 18 emphasized the need to review the present deregulatory policy for bus tour businesses as it causes the spread of illegal operations and ignores the obligation to take appropriate safety measures.
At a Lower House land and transport committee hearing where unsworn witnesses gave testimony in regard to the tour bus accident which resulted in 7 deaths on an expressway in April, Kokuta stated that the working conditions of bus drivers at present falls far short of ensuring passenger safety.
He pointed out that they have to drive up to 670km a day and 71.5 hours a week, exceeding the government-set standards to prevent death from overwork.
The JCP lawmaker said, “It was wrong to have allowed deregulation in an industry concerning people’s lives,” and called for a stricter qualification screening for newcomers, appropriate wages for bus drivers, improvement of their working conditions, and responsibility of tour companies as bus charterers.
Vice-Chairman of Japan Bus Association Oda Yukikatsu admitted that excessive deregulation has caused the loss of lives, saying, “Due to the massive increase in the number of bus operators, we have fallen into a practice of accepting whatever they do.”
Nakata Toru of the land and transport ministry’s road transport bureau also admitted, “Our efforts to keep an eye on the industry to make sure that they abide by even the relaxed regulations were insufficient.”
In contrast, representing the neo-liberal Your Party, Kakizawa Mito argued that deregulation is not a causal factor in the April accident.”
Deregulation in the industry increased the number of chartered bus operators from 2,336 in 1999 to 4,492 in March 2011. The ministry, after easing regulations, discovered that 65% of 316 operators subject to its inspections had violated relevant laws, including employers’ obligation to prevent death from overwork.