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Question for Oral Answer

18 Aug 2009 In Parliament

Mdm Halimah Yacob: To ask the Minister for Transport (a) whether he will give an update on the outcome of his Ministry's review into the unsafe manner in which foreign workers are transported in the back of lorries; (b) why is there a delay in the completion of the review which was supposed to be completed by end of 2008; and (c) in the interim, what measures have been taken to mitigate the dangers posed to foreign workers travelling in this manner.

Response from Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Mr Teo Ser Luck

        Sir, since the early years of Singapore's development, owners and hirers of goods vehicles have been allowed to use their vehicles to transport their workers. This has helped companies control business costs and be operationally flexible.

2.     However, LTA has also been mindful of the safety of workers that are so transported and has put in place a set of rules under the Road Traffic Act to enhance their safety. These rules require the workers to be safely seated at a height of not more than 3.2 metres from the ground and that the vehicle must not travel faster than 60km/h. A label must also be displayed on the lorry to indicate the maximum number of workers that can be transported, based on a minimum space requirement per person. If goods are also transported at the same time, they must be properly secured and the number of persons carried reduced accordingly.

3.     Last year, a workgroup co-chaired by the Land Transport Authority and the Ministry of Manpower was set up to see how we can further enhance the safety of workers being transported on lorries. The Workgroup engaged various stakeholders in different industries and found that the issue was a complex one. The use of lorries for the transportation of workers across different industries is pervasive and the impact of introducing any new measures will have to be thoroughly considered, including what the alternative modes of transport are. I am pleased to inform the House that the Workgroup has completed its review, and the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Workgroup. Let me touch on the key findings and recommendations of the Workgroup.

4.     The Workgroup has assessed that, the current safety measures and enforcement efforts have generally been effective in keeping the injury rates of workers transported at the back of lorries low and comparable to that of other types of vehicles such as motorcycles, buses and so on. Specifically, the evidence from the accident figures does not suggest that a drastic change to the policy is warranted. In the past several years, the annual average fatality and injury rates are about six times lower than the corresponding rates for all vehicles over the same period.

5.     Nevertheless, the Workgroup has recommended several measures to further enhance the safety of workers when they are being transported on lorries. Some can be implemented almost immediately, while others will require more time for businesses to adjust. Some of the immediate measures include lowering the maximum height of seated workers to further reduce the risk of falling off, and increasing the penalties on drivers and owners for non-compliance with any of the safety rules. LTA will also step up the enforcement regime with immediate effect. The public can help in this by calling LTAs hotline to report any instances of non-compliance spotted on the road.

6.     By January 2010, new lorries must be fitted with canopies and higher side railings if they are to carry passengers on the deck. Existing lorries are given three years to comply with this requirement, if they are to continue to be used to transport workers. In addition, the minimum deck space required per seated worker will be doubled to 0.744 square metres (or 8 square feet) in three years time. This will reduce the number of workers that can be transported on lorries, as compared to what is stipulated today, and will lower the number of casualties if an accident does occur. The lead time will allow businesses to phase in their operational changes and also make decisions on their existing assets.

7.     The Workgroup recognises that ensuring safety is the joint responsibility of the Government, employers, drivers, workers and other road users. Government agencies such as LTA, MOM, Traffic Police and the various associations will continue in outreach programmes to educate employers and workers on their responsibilities and showcase safety best practices.

8.     Details of the recommendations and measures to be implemented will be released shortly.

 

Ministry of Transport

18 August 2009