Very often, the enforcement agencies condone the rule violation and issue fitness certificate each year, since the general perception is that the buses ply a maximum distance of upto 50 kms per day, at a speed of 40 kms per hour or even less.
Police and Motor Vehicles’ Department officials are concerned that many schools in the district have rickety buses that are over 30 years old in their fleet, despite buses that are over 15 years old being banned from service within Kerala.
Very often, the enforcement agencies condone the rule violation and issue fitness certificate each year, since the general perception is that the buses ply a maximum distance of upto 50 kms per day, at a speed of 40 kms per hour or even less. This is being debunked by the surge in number of accidents involving school buses. Officials attributed the spiralling number of accidents to over-speeding, drivers who lack the necessary experience, rash driving and the use of old buses.
“A school bus that was involved in an accident in the city a fortnight ago had earlier been charged with overloading students, since it was carrying 139 students. Many school buses that are meant to be scrapped by the KSRTC are purchased by schools and re-registered. Their overall bad condition apart, many are not fitted with speed governors,” sources said.
School buses bearing registration numbers beginning with KLV, KRF etc., freely ply in the city despite the vehicles dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, they said.
The Ernakulam RTO, T. J. Thomas welcomed the suggestion to curtail the use of very old school buses. “The issue could even be taken up at the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) meeting in the coming academic year, by which time schools can phase out rickety buses. Managements of CBSE and ICSE schools must take the lead since they have more number of buses than other schools. Many premium schools in the city operate very old buses,” he said.
Interestingly, even little-known aided schools have begun operating school buses, most of them used ones. The teachers pay from their pocket so that they get sufficient number of students to run the school.
Mr. Thomas said that his department issues check report to school managements that operate old and ill-maintained buses. Follow up action too is taken. “It has also come to our notice that many schools rotate the same fire extinguisher, good set of tyres, among their buses which are sent for the annual fitness test,” he said.
Officials of the MV Department have also been instructed to monitor the condition of autorickshaws, vans and mini buses that ferry children to school.
“We have directed member schools not to use vehicles that are older than 15 years as school buses since the safety of students is involved,” an office-bearer of the Kerala CBSE School Managements’ Association said.
“No school can arbitrarily engage a bus for carrying students without the permission of MV Department. After all, it’s their duty to issue or withhold fitness certificate, depending on each vehicle’s condition,” said Indira Rajan, general secretary of the association.
She said that the association recently had a detailed discussion with the Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammed, covering a host of issues that includes the safety of school buses.
Manoj, a parent of a Std. II student in a private school, said that even if parents are concerned about the fitness of school vehicles they can hardly do anything since taking up the issue with the school management could spell trouble for their wards.