Odisha: STA appeals schools to put brake on unfit buses

State Transport Authority (STA), Odisha has appealed to schools to check the fitness of vehicles ferrying children and abide by Motor Vehicle law. It is the school management’s responsibility to ensure that Supreme Court guidelines for plying school buses are complied with. ‘Policy on Transportation of School Children’ framed in 2016 should be strictly enforced.

 The school managements should make sure that their buses are in order. They should ensure drivers are well trained and they have the valid driving license.

In a press note Sanjay Biswal, Joint Commissioner Transport, Road Safety said, “The issue of safety of school children transportation cannot be taken lightly. The concerned school bus operators and school managements are responsible for inconvenience to students, if any.”

 He informed that in the ongoing week-long special drive, so far around 1096 vehicles engaged in transporting school students in the State have been penalised for flouting road safety rules. It is a matter of serious concern that 820 vehicles were plying without fitness certificate, 387 vehicles did not have valid permit and 311 drivers did not have valid Driving License.

“The safety of children is paramount. No vehicle can ply without absolute compliance to the safety laws. While the drivers have been punished and fines have been imposed, the overall responsibility still lies with the school. The school authorities cannot turn a blind eye on this.

 It is their responsibility to ensure that drivers are physically fit and have proper driving license to ferry school children.” Similarly, schools which are engaging buses on contractual/ hire basis shall abide by the stipulations as applicable to the buses owned by school. School authorities should conduct safety audits of these vehicles as well.

As per the guidelines, all the vehicles engaged in ferrying school children must have a CCTV cameras, GPS trackers, first-aid box, proper grills, emergency exit, and fire extinguisher. They should maintain a list of students and their parents’ names and numbers. There must be an attendant from the school in the bus. Under no condition, the overloading of vehicles is permissible.

The number of children in the bus shall normally be restricted to its seating capacity. The carrying capacity of school buses and three-wheelers that transport school students should be displayed both inside and outside the vehicle. Light vehicles that are used for transportation of vehicles must also adhere to the safety standard. In all such vehicles at a conspicuous place in the front and backside of vehicles ‘school van’ ‘on school duty’ must be written. No person shall drive or no School Authority shall allow any person to drive any School Bus unless such person possesses the qualifications and satisfy the conditions as below:-

• He must have a valid Driving License to drive such a class of vehicle.

• He must have a minimum driving experience of at least 5 years in a similar category of the vehicle;

• He should not have been fined more than twice in a year for offences like red light jumping, violation of lane discipline or allowing unauthorized person to drive etc.

 • He should not have been ever challaned /fined for the offences of overspeeding, drunken driving and dangerous driving resulting in a fatal accidents.

• He should undergo a driving skill test before the School Level Transport Committee once a year. He should also undergo eye test at that time.

Apart from this, the policy states every school should have a School Level Transport Committee comprising parents, transport representatives, and school staff to look into matters pertaining to the safe transportation of the school children. If a school does not have such a committee, then it should immediately form one.

Biswal also requested the parents to be careful about the commute of their children and know their rights.