In order to make drivers and conductors act more responsibly towards passengers and commuters and minimize road accidents, the government has decided to make a dress code mandatory for them from mid-January.
The decision comes at a time when road accidents are proliferating across the country, mainly due to negligence on the part of drivers.
According to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT), drivers and conductors of all public transport vehicles must be neat and clean of dress and they must compulsorily wear reflective fluorescent jackets with their identities clearly visible.
“We have decided to make the dress code mandatory as it makes the drivers and conductors look more professional. We also believe this will help minimize road accidents,” said Tulasi Prasad Sitaula, secretary at MoPIT.
Though the ministry is yet to decide the color of the flourecent jacket, Secretary Sitaula indicated that it may be yellow.
“For drivers, they should be in formal wear–shirts and trousers,” he said, adding that the dress code will be mandatory for both long and short-route transport.
He also said the driver and conductor are supposed to wear their jackets throughout the journey.
MoPIT maintained that any driver or conductor caught violating the dress code will be fined. “But we are yet to finalize the fine amount. Unlike in the past, we are mulling a heavy fine for offenders,” he said.
A study carried out by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2012 in collaboration with the government shows that road accidents in Nepal have steadily increased at an annual rate of 27 percent since 2008. This rate exceeds the annual increase in the number of registered vehicles. Over 8,500 road accidents on average are taking place in the country annually since 2008.
According to a status paper on road safety in Nepal released by the Department of Roads at the end of 2013, driver negligence contributes to around 63 percent of all reported road accidents in Nepal.
Officials at MoPIT claim that the dress code will discourage drivers and conductors from drinking on the job as this could be easily noticed by passengers. Likewise, the provision is also expected to discourage the trend of allowing the conductor to take to the wheel in lieu of the driver for whatever reason.
However, transportation entrepreneurs said that the dress code may put the lives of drivers and conductors at risk during road accidents. “When there is an accident, enraged members of the public tend to assault the driver and conductor,” said Saroj Sitaula, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs.