RSTA  working to give public access to bus GPS trackers

YK Poudel 

More than two months after passenger buses were fitted with the Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking system, bus owners or those in the passenger bus transport business cannot track their buses.

This is because the normal Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card does not support the tracking system. To track the buses a SIM card is used in the tracking device. While Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) officials can track the buses, full access to GPS tracking and related services is not ready.

The RSTA launched the GPS tracking system and installed web-based trackers in 197 public transportation buses on October 13. A total of 250 GPS devices were procured paying Nu 1.6 million earlier this year.

Officials said the system was to provide the authority with real-time information on the safety of a particular passenger bus plying along different routes.

  GPS tracking device

GPS tracking device

One of the bus owners said that a traffic official asked him to use a different SIM card that will enable him to monitor the buses, but there was no clear information on how to do it and why a new SIM card was needed for the purpose. “I am clueless and have not heard after that,” he said.

A businessman who owns a fleet of buses said that he had not followed up as he had not paid for the devices. “If we can track the buses too, it could help us monitor the misuse and work accordingly,” he said.

The owner of Druk Dragon Transport, Damcho Tshering who owns six buses, said that traffic violations such as speeding could be monitored with the service. “The road inspectors and transportation service operators will monitor the buses to ensure the drivers are on time. Strict enforcement of traffic rules and regulations can be enforced with the tracking system,” he said. However, he cannot monitor his buses.

According to him, allowing access to the owners would help the bus operators to simplify the process. “Operational costs such as fuel management can be convenient by ensuring the drivers are taking the directed routes,” he said.

A bus driver said that those people who take the bus may experience several annoyances and indignities such as rude drivers, exorbitant baggage costs, and carrying extra passengers. “An effective system of tracking would help in ensuring an efficient transport system,” he said.

A few new drivers are unaware of the GPS bus tracking placed on buses. “We are hopeful that the RSTA will brief us regarding the system and its functions once the installation and access are given to the general public,” the drivers said.

Tobgay, 34, a passenger said that before a bus departs from the terminal, an RSTA official is supposed to do a pre-departure, post-arrival inspection and on-board inspections of passenger buses to ensure that the bus is in good condition and the traffic norms are followed.

“This is supposed to be done every day at the terminal and the official caution the drivers to be careful while driving. However, on some days the officials are not seen, mostly for post-arrival inspection leading to traffic norms violation by the drivers and passengers,” he said.

A college student, who experienced the foul mouth of a bus driver during one of her recent travels said, she wanted to complain regarding the incident but the inaccessibility of the service was a drawback.

“I learnt about the launch of the tracking system last month through one of the newspapers, and I wanted to avail the service recently when a driver was harsh on me for no reason. However, the system does not show any details on the bus-tracking and related services because of which, I was helpless,” the student said.

Another enraged passenger said, “I had an awful experience with one of the drivers while travelling to Tsirang earlier. Although I did not hear about the GPS before, I am hopeful that this new system in place will help passengers like me with RSTA monitoring the public bus transport system.”

RSTA official, Ugyen Norbu said that the public can for now view the bus schedule webpage through the RSTA web portal. “However, the normal in-built sim card in GPS trackers was giving complications for which we are working with the Smart Fleet Management system.”

“Full access to the GPS tracking and related services will be enabled soon once the process is complete,” he said.