Sunday 26 May 2019

School bus firms 'failing to carry out maintenance'

'Precious cargo': Road Safety Authority chief Moyagh Murdock. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
'Precious cargo': Road Safety Authority chief Moyagh Murdock. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

"Unscrupulous" private bus operators are failing to carry out maintenance - leading to defective vehicles in our school and transport fleets, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) will warn today.

RSA chiefs will face questions before a Dáil committee on the safety of the school bus fleet following data that showed more than half of buses failed roadside checks.

Almost 900 roadside checks between July 2017 and June 2018 saw 51pc of vehicles failing. Of the 873 inspections, 268 buses had a major defect and 37 were deemed to be dangerously defective.

The RSA is also set to outline figures that show 41pc of buses failed the annual NCT-style test.

The inspections were of privately operated buses, including but not solely buses used to bring pupils to school.

The publication of the data earlier this year sparked calls for a national safety audit of the school bus fleet.

The School Transport Scheme is operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education, and there are also schools or parents who have contracts with private operators outside of the department scheme.

Chief executive of the RSA Moyagh Murdock will meet with members of the Oireachtas Transport Committee today. Her opening statement, seen by the Irish Independent, will outline the safety checks process and puts the onus on operators to ensure that they keep up maintenance to ensure road worthiness.

"It is evident from the number of dangerously defective vehicles detected at the annual test that there are some unscrupulous operators who are failing to continually carry out preventive maintenance," the statement reads.

"This is a systematic failure by the owners concerned, unacceptable practice and clearly a blatant disregard for road traffic law and also a failure to appreciate the potentially adverse road safety effects for the general public."

She will outline the "heavy responsibility" on both operators and agencies such as the RSA to ensure safe services, saying: "The children and students who use buses every day to travel to school or other venues, either through the School Transport Scheme or other privately operated services, are precious cargo.

"Parents, children and students deserve the safest possible transport system. Every day parents and guardians put their trust in bus operators and drivers to get their children to and from school or other activities."

The RSA assists gardaí with roadside checks and says the data is not reflective of the compliance rate in the national fleet.

Operators deemed to be at a higher risk of non-compliance are targeted.

The statement also outlines that "the national bus fleet provides passengers with a remarkably safe travel compared to other road vehicles".

Ms Murdock will also outline a number of initiatives being run by the RSA to promote school bus safety.

Irish Independent

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