Cape Times / 31 July 2013, 10:26am / Michelle Jones
PROVINCIAL education authorities conducted a full review of the department’s transport scheme and tightened up its monitoring of buses after a school bus plunged into a river at Rheenendal.
The crash killed 14 children and the driver nearly two years ago, and injured 44.
During the inquest into the disaster in the Knysna Magistrate’s Court last week, it emerged the bus had a successful roadworthy certificate but its brakes did not work and the gears were faulty.
In the light of this, the Cape Times asked the Western Cape Education Department for details of transport safety measures:
Spokesman Paddy Attwell said strict requirements were applied to ensure pupils were transported safely. “These criteria exceed those of traffic regulations. For example, buses have to pass roadworthy tests every six months instead of once a year.
“Contractors may only use buses registered for particular routes.
“The department conducted a full review after the accident.”
Attwell said the department provided transport to pupils from poor communities who lived more than 5km from their nearest school and where public transport was not available.
Attwell said bus contractors had to employ qualified drivers with valid public driver’s permits. Contractors had to follow a number of stringent safety obligations including:
l Each pupil had to have a seat and pupils were not allowed to stand.
l The principal or delegate must conduct a visual inspection to check the condition of all vehicles transporting pupils at least once a month, using the department’s official checklist.
l Any vehicle suspected of being unroadworthy must be reported immediately to the district director, who must then report it to the department and traffic authorities.
l Buses can be substituted only for valid reasons with written approval of the principal and confirmation by the district director. The replacement bus must be subject to a roadworthy test.
A team of officials were to check whether contractors were complying with conditions outlined in contracts, including providing evidence of roadworthiness.
Attwell did not say when last the vehicle involved in the Rheenendal accident had been inspected. He said the inquest would provide clarity on the accident and the department looked forward to the outcome.