From Thursday, SMRT bus drivers will be able to continue working until age 69, while still enjoying the same pay and benefits as their younger colleagues.

Currently, its bus drivers can be re-employed only until 67, past the official retirement age of 62.

In a media release yesterday, the transport operator said the move was to allow its staff to continue "contributing meaningfully" to the growing bus industry here.

It said that re-employed bus drivers would need to be fit and meet job requirements.

SIM University economist Walter Theseira said SMRT's move may be a way to hold on to its older bus captains in the face of a manpower crunch in the industry.

"The age profile of bus captains tends to be older. Younger people may not be so interested in driving buses," he said, adding that bus operators here have faced difficulty in attracting and retaining local bus drivers in recent years.

The two newest public bus operators say they are open to employing older bus drivers. "We are open to exploring opportunities and options to allow bus captains who have reached 62 years of age to extend their career with us, if they wish to," Go-Ahead Singapore's managing director Nigel Wood told The Straits Times, without specifying any age limit.

Tower Transit said it did not have age limits for its bus drivers. "We practise continuous permanent employment until the individual is unable to hold a valid driving licence due to age or medical reasons," said a spokesman.

Drivers here can hold a driving licence for heavy vehicles, including buses, until age 75.

SBS Transit, the largest bus operator here, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Yesterday, SMRT announced a rise in basic pay by $300 for its bus drivers, starting Thursday. The starting pay for Singaporean and permanent resident bus drivers will also be increased to $1,950, up from $1,650. "The revised salary package will see new bus captains earn a monthly gross salary of up to $3,450," said an SMRT spokesman, adding that SMRT Buses staff would now have up to 21 days of leave, from 18 days.

This came after negotiations between SMRT and the National Transport Workers' Union. In recent months, the other three bus operators announced pay increases for their bus drivers.


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