Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Dogged by a mountain of crashes since its inception 15 years ago, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is boasting a 27 per cent decline in collisions that has saved the cash-starved bus company millions of dollars in much-needed revenue.
Data provided by the State-owned bus company's corporate communications manager, Reginald Allen, showed that between April and December 2012 the company recorded 532 crashes, which is close to 200 less collisions when compared to the corresponding period in 2011.
Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, managing director of the JUTC, attributed the decline to the company's increased efforts to retrain and monitor its drivers. "We have been retraining, using a company from Montreal, the road-management unit has been beefed up, its roles expanded and numbers increased," said Lewin.
However, the ex-army man admitted that there is still a lot of work to do because most of the crashes are still being caused by avoidable human errors. "Tailgating is probably the number-one cause. I am pleased but we have a long way to go. We take our little victories and improve them," he said. Lewin said the reduction has saved the company money and the management team would "aggressively" continue its retraining programme.
Allen also pointed out that the vast majority of crashes recorded in the periods under review did not result in significant damage to the units or other people's property. But, he explained that the practice is to include all collisions even if two buses touch in the depot and there is minimal or no damage to the units, it will be added to the total number of crashes.
Still, the JUTC has a costly history of crashes.
In 2007, the JUTC received 749 accident claims. Eighty-two were settled in the amount of $9.3 million while claimants were seeking $73 million to settle the remaining claims.
For 2008, the JUTC settled 92 cases out of 234 claims submitted at a cost of $14 million; however, at that time, another 610 accidents remained unsettled as no one came forward with claims against the company. The following year was more costly because the bus company settled 110 cases for a total of $31 million. At that time, the company said it received claims for 112 accidents. Using the average payout in 2009 - $281,818 - as a yardstick, the current decline in the number of crashes would have saved the struggling bus company approximately $54.4 million.
Between July 2005 and July 2006, the bus company recorded 1,442 crashes from a fleet of only 390 functioning buses, which represented a decline by 20 per cent in the total number of crashes. In 2004, the company paid out $105 million to insure its buses because of their vulnerability, while at that time it was forking out over $10 million annually for bus-body repairs and payments to victims.
Meanwhile, the JUTC currently has 938 drivers on its payroll and as at January 21, 2012, it had 277 functional buses. Allen told The Sunday Gleaner that the company expects to have its fleet increased to 400 buses by April this year.
April to December 2011 - 725 crashes
April to December 2012 - 532 crashes