Maintenance of PMPML buses that are more than eight years old costs a pretty penny at Rs 8 per kilometre, and drivers and depot mechanics claim the requirement for spare parts for these vehicles far outstrips the supply. As a result, buses tend to remain off the road for more than a week following a breakdown.
According to the norms of the Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), a 10-year-old bus, or one which has done more than 7 lakh km, should be scrapped to avoid heavy maintenance costs as well as to ensure the safety of passengers. The CIRT now plans to come up with an independent scrapping policy to bring down the upper limit for roadworthy buses to eight years from 10. The number of 10-year-old buses with the PMPML today is 191, and lack of funds is resulting in low supply of spare parts for these vehicles.
“Considering the road conditions and heavy traffic, which is worse than other cities, the age for scrapping of buses should be reduced to five years,” PMPML chief engineer Sunil Budase said. “Continuous disturbance during the journey affects the clutch and brakes, and the pathetic road conditions in the extension areas are minimising the life of buses. Currently, the cost due to spare parts stands at Rs 1.50 per km and we are getting less than a rupee per km. There is always an adverse relationship between demand and supply of the spare parts.”
The aging buses break down frequently, but since the PMPML is unable to provide sufficient spares and care to these vehicles before bringing them back on the road, drivers say it results in more breakdowns and, sometimes, accidents.
Data provided by the PMPML shows an average of 40 breakdowns per month. “After a breakdown, commuters generally blame the driver and conductor, but they can’t do anything,” PMPML workers association secretary A N Anpur said. “It is very difficult and stressful to drive a bus which is not in proper condition. Drivers have to provide services with the available buses, otherwise it will affect the frequency.”
He said there was a tremendous shortage of mechanics and employees for the workshop. The manpower requirement is 1.25 per bus, which means five mechanics are needed for four buses, but the current ratio is 0.7 to a bus.
Many drivers said they were not getting spare parts on time, with the waiting period stretching to more than four days. “I have been driving a bus without a headlight for the last four days,” a driver said, requesting anonymity. “My route is Malwadi to Uttamnagar. There are no streetlights on this route, so it is very risky to drive with only one light in the evening shift. In case of any mishap, the commuters and the police will blame me. Actually, shortage of spare parts is the main reason for most of the accidents. We have to drive the bus we get.”
191 The number of buses in PMPML fleet that are 10 years old