Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob has defended his policy to relax the previous government’s directive for old public vans to be replaced by minibuses.
Mr Saksayam said mandatory replacement could compromise safety, because drivers would be motivated to drive at higher speeds to make as many shuttle rounds as possible in order to earn money to quickly pay off their investment. He added that the ministry has considered offering van owners low-interest loans, estimated at a total of 20 billion baht, to buy mini-buses.
Mr Saksayam explained that drivers of vans over 10 years old are no longer required to switch to driving minibuses, but will have the option to do so if they can afford the replacement vehicle. If van owners are not able to absorb the cost of new minibuses, they may continue to use vans, provided they regularly bring their vehicles in to the Department of Land Transport for roadworthiness checks.
“This is a voluntary policy,” he said.
He reasoned that under current economic conditions, not every van owner can invest in new, imported minibuses, which are priced at around 2.2 million baht per vehicle. The previous government stipulated that after Oct 1, public vans over 10 years old will not be able to renew their licence to carry passengers, although they can continue using the vehicles for other purposes. If owners want to continue carrying passengers, they must start using minibuses.
Mr Saksayam said public transportation might be disrupted if several public vans are replaced due to a lack of minibus maintenance centres. Some drivers, however, have already replaced their old vans with minibuses before the Oct 1 deadline.
“The bottom line is it’s not necessary to follow through with the replacement policy if the van operators are capable of raising their safety standards,” he said.