Oral Reply by Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Amy Khor to Parliamentary Question on the Transportation of Workers on Lorries

02 Aug 2023In Parliament
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang asked the Acting Minister for Transport 

a.     what are the specific sectors that LTA is engaging with in its study on transporting workers by buses or other modes of transport; 

b.     how many companies in these sectors have been open to shifting to buses or other modes of transportation; 

c.     what are the specific pain points identified; and 

d.     what follow up steps will LTA be taking to address the pain points and scaling up the adoption of using buses and other modes of transportation. 

Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang asked the the Acting Minister for Transport what is the rationale for the ban under section 126 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 on carrying any person in or allowing any person to ride in goods vehicles. 

Reply by Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Amy Khor:

1.     Mr Speaker sir, may I have your permission to reply to questions 19 and 20 together?

2.     We had on 5 July 2023 responded to the Member’s Adjournment Motion on the issue of transportation of workers on lorries and covered some of the points that he raised in the two PQs.

3.     As stated in our previous response, the Government shares the objective of enhancing safety for every worker, regardless of nationality. We have worked closely with stakeholders and introduced a suite of additional safety measures.  For example, we have: 

a.     Mandated that the front passenger cabin be fully occupied before the rear deck can be used to carry workers; 

b.     Required lorries transporting workers to be fitted with canopies and higher side railings; 

c.     Raised requirements for S-Pass and Work Permit holders to obtain a Singapore Class 3 licence that will allow them to drive light goods vehicles; and 

d.     Imposed higher penalties for non-compliance. 

4.     These measures have helped to enhance safety and reduce the risk for workers. The average number of fatalities from road traffic accidents involving persons onboard lorries has halved, from around 6 per year from 2013 to 2017, to around 3 per year from 2018 to 2022. The average number of injured persons onboard lorries has also reduced by about a third. 

5.     Our efforts will focus on improving safety for all road users. We will also continue to roll out measures that address a multitude of factors behind accidents, such as driving behaviours and vehicle speed.

6.     The Government recognises that it is not ideal for workers to be transported on lorries, but we also understand the genuine concerns from employers. In a joint statement issued yesterday by more than 20 industry associations including the Singapore Contractors Association (SCAL), Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI), Association of Process Industry (ASPRI), and the Singapore National Employers' Federation (SNEF), the employers stated that if the Government imposes a ban, many companies, especially small and medium enterprises, will not be able to continue operating their business.  

7.     If the companies close down, there will be knock-on effects on society, including delays affecting new housing projects, polyclinics and MRT lines; as well as higher costs  all around for Singaporeans. Their employees – both Singaporean and migrant workers –  also risk losing their jobs.

8.     We want to safeguard both safety and livelihoods of our workers. My Ministry has been working closely with relevant government agencies including the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of National Development, Building and Construction Authority, Ministry of Home Affairs, Traffic Police, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Enterprise Singapore, as well as industry associations to progressively implement a suite of additional measures to improve safety for our workers: 

a.     For instance, we introduced minimum rest time requirements for dual-role drivers. 

b.     We also announced plans to require all lorries to be fitted with speed management devices, details of which will be announced by MHA later this year. The Traffic Police will also continue enforcement to ensure compliance with existing traffic regulations.

9.     We are committed to improving safety for all road users and working with stakeholders, including the NGOs, to develop practical solutions that are in the best interests of our workers, to protect their safety and their livelihoods.

10.    On the Member’s other question, Section 126 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, which regulates the carriage of persons in goods vehicles, is a legacy provision. It has been in the Act since it was first passed in 1961. From legislative records, it is also found in the predecessor to the Act, the Road Traffic Ordinance, dating back to before 1950. We do not have records to definitively confirm what was the rationale back then. However, we surmise from contemporaneous reports that the likely intent was to prevent lorries from being used to provide commercial taxi-like services. This remains relevant today. 

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