Older workers

41 years at the wheel and he's still got lots of drive

Mr Lim says he cannot bear to leave the company that has become his second home.
Mr Lim says he cannot bear to leave the company that has become his second home.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Chief bus captain Lim Yew Huat joined SBS Transit in 1975, when the company - then Singapore Bus Service - was just three years old.

Forty-one years later, he still looks forward to getting behind the wheel each day.

"I love my job," says the robust 65-year-old. "I'm still physically fit. If I can, I would want to work till I'm 70 or 75."

In fact, Mr Lim, one of eight chief bus captains among SBST's staff of some 6,000 bus drivers, says he "cannot bear to leave", and is glad the company moved the retirement age to 67. "This company has become my second home."

His duties include training and mentoring new drivers, as well as filling in whenever a route needs a driver. "I've mastered over 40 routes," he says with pride.

He does not understand why Singaporeans are generally reluctant to take up the job. "In any job, there are bound to be challenges. You just have to face up to them," he says. "That's what I always say to the new bus captains: Don't listen to all the negative things you hear. Keep your mind open, your chin up and believe in yourself. If you are diligent and steadfast, you will rise in your career."

LOVE MY JOB

I love my job. I'm still physically fit. If I can, I would want to work till I'm 70 or 75.

MR LIM YEW HUAT, 65, chief bus captain.

He adds: "This really isn't a bad job. The buses are so new, modern and comfortable. And I've met so many commuters who have become friends."

There was a traditional Chinese medicine doctor from Australia who was also a Chinese painting artist. "He said he would send me a painting of a horse, but I didn't think much of it.

"I was so surprised and touched when the painting arrived."

He has a photograph of the painting in his mobile phone and points to the calligraphy that read "an excellent bus driver in Singapore".

He recalls an occasion when he helped an elderly woman in a wheelchair up the bus. "I didn't think much of it because it was my duty, but it made an impression on the woman's daughters who were with her.

"They must have called and told another sister who was waiting for them at their destination. She took a photo of me when I pulled up."

Long after the incident, Mr Lim says, one of the sisters who boarded his bus greeted him and asked: "Uncle, do you remember me?"

On another occasion, a commuter invited him to his wedding. The man, a flight steward, had been taking his No. 65 bus since he was in secondary school.

Mr Lim was "very touched", but he did not attend because it was in "a high-class hotel", and he was a sole breadwinner with a modest salary back then.

"But I did deliver small ang pow to his mother."

He says he is "a lot more comfortable financially" these days. For the past 10 years, the family has been holidaying overseas twice a year.

The Lims have two grown-up children - a son, 41, who is a full-time economics tutor; and a daughter, 37, who is a laboratory manager at the Earth Observatory.

"They both have master's degrees... and they are single," he says, adding wistfully that all he longs for now are grandchildren.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline '41 years at the wheel and he's still got lots of drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe