Sunday, 18 November 2007

Vehicle Pax Disc

It seems more like a scene from the US-Mexico border: open, flat-bed trucks with working guys all sat on construction materials, tools and machines being driven around between dormitories and construction sites. Yet this is a common sight in Singapore. Not only common but legal and regulated.

Commercial vehicles are marked up with a black and white sticker showing the maximum number of passengers permitted to be carried. This ranges from 3-pax in a little Renault Kangoo van up to 43-pax for a long, flat-bed truck. They sit there, unprotected from sun, rain or accident. The number seems to roughly equate to "how many people can squat in this space?". There are no seatbelts, handles or any concessions to safety. And it's not just open trucks, closed-sided vans are used as well, and because of the heat, they tend to crack open the side loading doors.

The contrast between cars with mandatory seatbelt requirements and a bunch of guys sat on power tools is extreme. But it's just another pragmatic compromise. Singapore benchmarks itself against developed nations for economic strength, legal framework and to some extent, social issues. But mandating local companies to provide buses or mini-buses to transport workers would be an intolerable financial burden in a country where manual labourers are hired cheaply and vehicles are very expensive. Hence the compromise to maintain reasonable parity with neighbouring economies by trading worker's safety and ethical superiority.