The wheels of a bus belonging to Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) came off and the bus hit the ground with a thud. There were no casualties, but the passengers said they would have plunged into the Vrishabhavathi drain if the wheels had fallen off instead on the other side of the road. The incident took place in 2017 on a bus route from Kengeri to K.R.Market, where a wheel came off and the bus hit the front part of the ground.
This isn’t the only example – BMTC buses have been in the past known for lack of proper maintenance and repeated breakdowns. But recent reports have stated how the number of breakdowns have drastically reduced in the past one year. Is this shift in fact true? If yes, what has led to this shift?
Shift in BMTC upkeep, inspections
“Every section of the BMTC has started to work in sync with each other to ensure that breakdowns and other bus maintenance related issues are reduced”, claims a Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation( BMTC) bus driver working in a Southern Zone Depot.
The official record provided by BMTC to Citizen Matters, shows the number of breakdowns for the year 2017 during the months April to September as 4419, 4146, 3884, 3747, 3764 and 4411 respectively, whereas for the year 2018 during the same period it is 1637, 1395, 1228, 1244, 1099 and 957 respectively. The records show that the number of breakdowns have reduced by almost 70 percent.
V Ponnuraj (Managing Director, BMTC), states that the system of monitoring of complaints registered by drivers have improved, where everyone is held accountable. The complaints are now moved onto a register, which is carefully monitored.
“The number of surprise inspections by officers from the zonal and central level has increased”, says a Depot Manager from the Southern Zone who didn’t want to be named. He also mentions that strict action is being taken against mechanics in cases where their work is of poor quality.
BMTC has recently invested heavily in procuring spare parts to ensure that when there is an issue, it is adequately addressed, says Ponnuraj. He mentions that earlier drivers used to be demotivated as their complaints weren’t taken seriously, and that now there is a shift in their spirit.
In conversation with Citizen Matters, BMTC bus drivers and conductors from several depots across zones mentioned the decrease in the number of maintenance-related issues that they experience, and the relative speed at which issues were being addressed.
However, one respondent who wanted to remain anonymous was skeptical. He said that most of the depots were keen on achieving the recognition for monthly zero breakdown, and therefore tried to project less breakdowns rather than take real steps to achieve it.
The BMTC has introduced a mobile app, which enables real time registration of defects by the driver. “This would enable the technical supervisors at the depot to plan beforehand the necessary steps to be taken once the bus arrives at the depot,” states a senior level engineer of BMTC. Currently both the systems of registering complaints manually through the log sheets and through the app are being used.
Ponnuraj says that there are currently a few glitches in the app and believes that within a month they would be fixed. While the app tries to bring about transparency by recording the various processes that a complaint has gone through; bus drivers that Citizen Matters interacted with stated that they felt more comfortable manually logging the complaints than using the app. While there are concerns around the need to have a smart phone and availability of efficient internet connectivity at all locations, officials from the Mechanical department of BMTC say that both systems would co exist until the usage of the app stabilises.
The one-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that BMTC has with Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA), where drivers and mechanics are regularly trained on best driving practices and effective maintenance, has according to officials at the Mechanical Department has resulted in better upkeep of BMTC buses.
BMTC has zero breakdown objective
Ponnuraj says the aim is to achieve zero breakdowns (excluding unavoidable freak accidents). BMTC is moving towards predictive and preemptive maintenance, where issues are resolved even before they might occur. Currently when an issue arises it is tended to; but with predictive maintenance bus parts will be replaced once their shelf life is over therefore reducing the chances of issues arising. Ponnuraj adds that BMTC is willing to invest in spare parts to ensure predictive maintenance. He asserts that their main objective is to increase the reliability of the BMTC fleet which would retain and attract commuters and other passengers.
Citizen’s feedback and participation is important in ensuring this goal of zero breakdown. BMTC provides the option to register complaints against its service on its website and through its helpline; but several of the commuters that Citizen Matters spoke to weren’t aware of this provision.