Unless you’re one of the lucky kids whose parents dropped you off and picked you up from school, there’s a high chance you would have either taken a school bus or the “driver uncle/auntie” – one of those private cars that would send and pick you up from school just like a regular school bus. Everything was fine, nothing went wrong, right?
There’s a common perspective that private cars are better than school buses, in the sense that they’re safer and less crowded (so the driver would technically know when a child is missing). However, this isn’t necessarily the case, simply because these private cars aren’t registered to ferry schoolchildren, and aren’t bound by the rules and regulations that registered schoolbuses have to follow. For example, you could make a complaint against an irresponsible schoolbus driver, but it’s not the same when it comes to a private car as it’s not operating as a registered business or bound by any regulations for safety and sufficient practices.
While some of you are scoffing at the point about buses having regulations (have you seen how bad some of them are??), you’re not alone! Current Transport Minister Anthony Loke has acknowledged the problem of bus shortages, and how unregistered drivers are basically filling in that gap. The transport ministry is coming up with a solution to this in 2019, but more on this later.
But in order to understand this further, let’s take a look at...
Rules and practices that already exist.
Currently, there are several regulations and schemes that have already been established for schoolbuses, and were previously enforced by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD). However, there has been a bit of a shakeup in that department as SPAD has been reformed as the Land Public Transport Agency (APAD). At the time of writing, there is no website available for APAD, and the SPAD website is temporarily unavailable. But until further developments are made, let’s take a look at the existing practices and rules that may ensure the safety and legality of registered school vehicles.
First off, did you know that your child is automatically protected via an insurance policy if you sent him/her on a registered school bus? Yup, children who take registered schoolbuses are eligible for the School Children Insurance Coverage Scheme (SCICS). Now this is somewhat reassuring to parents who are dependent on public transportation for children.
Also, school bus operators need to be registered with SPAD, and are obligated to undergo the Industrial Code of Practice (ICOP) safety programme in order to ensure the driver and vehicle used is safe on the roads.
ICOP has established several objectives:
- More regular checks on the drivers and operators.
- Drivers must undergo intensive training given by trainers.
- Buses and minivans will undergo regular servicing.
- Bus operators must manage risks and maintain a record of the risk data
If you’re looking for deeper insight, the codes of practice are listed under the Occupational Safety and Health Industry Code of Practice for Road Transport Activities 2010.
So what’s in store for 2019?
Remember how we mentioned at the beginning of the article that Anthony Loke acknowledged the schoolbus problem in Malaysia? Here’s how severe it is – There are only 14, 080 registered school buses, and approximately 3.94 million school students in the country (that’s way too many students for so few buses!)
Right now, the Transport Ministry is looking into a more organized transportation system, which may involve the registration of private driver uncle/auntie cars.
Although these are still in the works, there’s one clarification that should be made… parents sending their own kids to school won’t be required to register or follow any of the current or upcoming guidelines.