The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) this month said that it is considering requirements for public transport drivers to undergo comprehensive urine drug screening.
The amendments are being considered after an incident on Sept. 21, when one person died and another was injured after a bus of Sanchong Bus Co struck them in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖).
The driver, surnamed Hsu (許), was reported to have fallen asleep at the wheel and he told investigators that on Sept. 18 he had taken an amphetamine.
Sanchong Bus said that when Hsu had applied for a driver’s job, he had no record of drugs offenses, and urine tests in 2018 and last year had shown no issues.
Ministry regulations state that companies that operate buses on city or inter-city routes should conduct unscheduled tests of drivers, but do not define penalties for failed tests apart from the phrase: “Appropriate handling of those who fail to pass the test.”
The amendments would require comprehensive screening of all drivers at least once per year and would eliminate a clause saying that the employee must be notified at least four hours before the test, the ministry said.
Department of Motor Vehicles branches should conduct at least one regular inspection per quarter, the draft amendments say.
If a bus company fails to comply, it would face a NT$9,000 to NT$90,000 fine, with the company’s operating permit to be suspended or revoked depending on the severity of the offense, the ministry said.
The base test would screen for morphine, amphetamine and others, with screening to be expanded to tests for ketamine and other substances, it said.
Sanchong Bus general manager Lee Chien-wen (李建文) said he supported the proposal, as it would provide a more effective means to prevent incidents of driving under the influence.
The company would comply with the rules, even though they would add to its costs.
However, another bus company owner, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that as yet there is no direct evidence of drugs being a factor in the Sept. 21 incident.
It is unreasonable for the ministry to amend laws that would add hundreds of thousands or millions of New Taiwan dollars to bus companies, the second owner said.
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