Written-off vehicles held together by wire, minibus taxis without floorboards, and brake pedals tied to the floor.
These are the conditions of some vehicles used to transport hundreds of thousands of children to and from school.
Last year in Gauteng, 95 percent of operating school vehicles seen at testing centres were written off as unroadworthy.
Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Ashref Ismail said it was shocking how many defective vehicles were used to transport children.
“One operation done in November by the Gauteng traffic police in the Vaal area was a real eye-opener. Of the 227 school vehicles tested, 215 failed… absolutely shocking.
“That was an all-time record of the number of unroadworthy vehicles found in one testing centre during a single sting operation.”
In November and last month, 603 school transport vehicles were tested, of which 412 failed.
Now, Ismail said, the national Department of Transport had earmarked next month to focus on scholar transport.
Howard Dembovsky, the national chairman of Justice Project SA, said unroadworthy school transport was commonplace because corruption was rife at testing stations.
Even though a Professional Driving Permit renewal and vehicle testing would cost just over R400, people were willing to pay up to R1 000 to have their vehicles passed, he said.
Also, some didn’t even take their vehicles to testing centres, yet still passed the test.
At Melpark Primary School, a driver who did not want to be named, but who has been in the business since 1992, told The Star there were drivers who belonged to drivers’ associations and those who worked alone.
Problems arose when those not with associations set lower prices to attract parents and then overloaded their vehicles to cover costs.
Also, when those drivers– most have no insurance – ran out of money before month-end, they simply switched off their phones and left pupils and parents hanging.
And parents were not blameless.
“With some parents, we only see them at the beginning of the year when we sign agreements. When we fetch their children they don’t even leave the house to look at the vehicle or interact with the driver.
“For all they know, the driver could be a drunk who drinks and smokes in front of the children… the parents simply don’t care.”
What your child’s driver should have, according to the Department of Roads and Transport:
l A Professional Driving Permit;
l A letter from the school approving the transport service;
l A list of pupils’ names;
l Detailed route to be followed to and from school;
l A timetable detailing the pick-up and drop-off points.
Major defects found on vehicles:
l Faulty braking systems;
l Gross overloading;
l Generally unroadworthy. – The Star