OpenTour Buses: Unsafe at ANY Speed
OpenTour Buses: Unsafe at ANY Speed Reviews
Do you really understand the risks? Mar 24, 2009
Friday, 2009 March 13 was not a lucky day as unsuspecting tourists lay dead following yet another road accident. This time it was 9 Russians, and a tour guide, en route from Da Lat to Mui Ne through the Dai Ninh Pass in the Bac Ninh District of Binh Thuan Province.
Didn't hear about it? Not really surprising as it's just another accident in a country where the annual death toll exceeds 13,000 each year. Ho Chi Minh counts an average of 3 dead DAILY. According to Vietnam's National Committee for Traffic Safety figures traffic accidents kill and injure 90 people every day, and the rate of fatalities continues to rise.
Fourteen other travelers were injured, 13 of whom were Russians, as the bus with 24 tourists drove off the side of a road on Dai Ninh Pass in Binh Thuan Province's Bac Binh District at around 19.00H.
A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "According to our preliminary information, the driver was traveling very fast and lost control of his vehicle."
The driver later claimed the brakes failed! A poor workman always blames his tools.
The Dai Ninh Road, in the Dai Ninh Pass is located, was opened to traffic in 2002 to serve the construction of the Dai Ninh hydro power plant had not been fully completed and is hazardous at several parts. The road cuts the distance between Da Lat and Mui Ne by 100 kilometres compared with the old route.
Open Tour buses angling for the foreign tourist business are death traps waiting to be sprung. If prospective riders ignore the snazzy paint jobs and look closer to what matters they will find much to be desired.
Things such as properly trained drivers, fully rested drivers, properly maintained vehicles, good tires (tyres), full comprehensive insurance for vehicle and passengers, etc.
These buses are frequently used vehicles imported from Korea, with the exception of sleeper vehicles and the Mai Linh fleet which was new in 2008 and 2009. The imported buses are quickly painted - on the back, front and sides - and put on the road.
With a HCM - Ha noi trip selling for around USD$20 - passengers never get them for this price as the multiple vendors add their mark-up - and about 45 passengers per load, the maximum take is around USD$900 for a trip totaling 2 days. Fuel is at world prices in VietNam so you can see it takes a while to pay off the bank loans that finance these ventures.
One benefit derived from banks funding these companies is that they require comprehensive insurance - but NOT passenger insurance. This is why when a fatality occurs the driver is arrested and the vehicle impounded by the police as security for the USD$31,000 death payment (2009 rate) in respect of each fatality. The Dai Ninh Pass accident should result in a minimum payment of USD$279,000 - way above the value of the bus and beyond the capacity of the driver ever to pay before retirement.
The buses are inspected twice annually at which time a cursory inspection, by police - the best money can buy, satisfies them enough, along with appropriate cash payments, that the vehicle is safe ... enough.
I, and some colleagues, had a project of inspecting tires and basic safety items on the main Highway 1A OpenTour bus route. We extensively photographed the tires, body work and undercarriages of these buses where ever possible such as parking lots, roadside cafes, etc.
Bus parking lots are to be found at Ha Noi (3), Hue (1), Hoi An (2), Nha Trang (2), Da Lat (2) and HCM (3). As our crews became familiar to parking lot guards we were able to increase the scope of our inspections including capturing tire (tyre) serial numbers, etc.
Fortunately the drivers, encouraged by bribes, frequent well known road stops making the task easier. Where an inspection couldn't be properly completed, the vehicle would be 'ambushed' at a subsequent stop, something that caught the bus operators by surprise, particularly when they found the same crew was checking them at more than one point on a given day (or night).
The tire data was important in discovering what was being done during vehicle inspections - good / new tires were being put on buses when they were due for inspection, only to be swapped off after a new certificate - visible on the windshield - was issued. There are even some inter-bus line tire swaps.
The bottom line is there are a couple of good bus lines, a few so-so and many poor bus lines.
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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