Safety fears as nearly half of all school buses prove defective
Gardaí and specialist engineers have launched a nationwide school bus safety blitz after discovering almost half of all vehicles had defects.
Data compiled by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) found that a quarter of the defects were classed as "dangerous" or "major".
Some school bus defects included fire hazards, badly worn brakes and bald tyres.
RSA officials accompanied by gardaí have stopped and checked hundreds of school buses over the past 18 months.
They have also carried out unannounced visits at hundreds of premises run by bus businesses and found more than half were failing to keep proper maintenance records.
RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock told the Irish Independent that her officials had decided to keep the pressure on operators after the dreadful compliance rate last year. She also issued a warning to schools and youth sports groups not to hire buses without first making sure the bus company had a certificate of compliance.
"RSA inspectors continue to target school bus vehicles and operators at roadside checks in conjunction with An Garda Síochána and at operators premises in 2016," said Ms Murdock (pictured).
"We are encouraging parents, teachers, voluntary groups, youth clubs and sports organisations to be vigilant when hiring a bus and have prepared a declaration of compliance which they can present to bus providers to confirm that their bus meets all requirements.
"They should satisfy themselves that the bus or coach operator is operating roadworthy vehicles."
Ms Murdock revealed that the organisation had deliberately focused on the school bus sector last year and had decided to continue the crackdown. "Buses used to transport pupils will be heavily targeted, with a focus on those buses considered to be of highest risk on our roads with a view to removing the danger posed," she said.
The authority will also be raising awareness amongst schools with parents and others who hire school buses privately to improve compliance throughout the sector.
The road-worthiness of 661 school buses was inspected at the roadside in 2015.
Of these, she said, 47pc were found to have some form of a defect.
She said 27pc of these defects - or one in 10 of the buses checked - were defined as major or dangerous defects.
In 2015, 645 premises inspections checking for compliance with repair and maintenance obligations at bus operators were carried out.
Of these, just over half - or 53pc - were found to have adequate systems in place but the remaining 47pc were given education and advice and flagged for a follow-up visit.
The RSA said one-in-five bus businesses was still not compliant by the time of a second visit by its officials.