OPERATION Coachman got underway this week, a joint initiative between Lothian and Borders Police, the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and Scottish Borders Council to check over the region’s school buses, the aim being to make sure that the children are as safe as possible during their journeys to and from school.
School transport operators are expected to be working to high standards of compliance both in terms of the vehicles they use to transport children and the drivers employed. Over the week the three agencies will be visiting schools and will physically inspect buses and taxis as well as checking that registered licensed drivers are in charge of these vehicles.
They started in Eyemouth on Monday morning and reported that all buses complied with regulations, all drivers documentation was in order and only a couple of minor faults were found on one bus. While in Eyemouth they also checked over a bus used to transport elderly people to a day centre and again found everything in order.
By Tuesday they had moved on to Duns and yet again the news was good - all the buses inspected were in good order, as was the driver documentation and apart from a couple of VOSA notices served for minor defects all vehicles and drivers passed.
The way the operation has been conducted means there will be no disruption to children or schools, but any vehicles that fail to meet the required standards will be ticketed and if necessary removed from service.
Lothian and Borders Roads Policing Inspector, Colin Shillito, said: “The purpose of ‘Operation Coachman’ is to be in a position where we can assure parents that all three agencies are pro-actively working towards keeping their children safe and this joint initiative allows us to remind operators of their responsibilities. The aim of this it is to ensure that operators are maintaining the high standards of compliance we expect from them in terms of safety.”
Councillor Jim Fullarton, SBC’s executive member for roads and infrastructure and East Berwickshire councillors, fully supports the initiative adding: “We have the responsibility for transporting thousands of children each day and it is vitally important we work with other agencies to ensure properly trained and licensed adults are, literally, in the driving seat”.
During ‘Operation Coachman’ pupils will be reminded of the importance of wearing seatbelts on buses where supplied and how their behaviour on school transport can affect others.
In January 2009 a petition went before the Scottish Parliament: “Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to take all appropriate action, whether through amending guidance, contracts, agreements or legislation, to require local authorities to install proper safety signage and lights on school buses, to be used only when school children are on the bus when necessary, and make overtaking a stationary school bus a criminal offence.”
In June this year the Public Petitions Committee agreed to continue the petition and write to the Scottish Government seeking further information.
The Scottish Bus Safety Group campaign for safe journeys for children to and from school and a recent survey they carried out revealed that 50 per cent felt that school transport was satisfactory. However, the vast majority of people responding (91 per cent thought school transport buses need to more visible; 73 per cent think school transport buses should have additional flashing lights; and it would seem that double decker buses for school runs are not popular with parents.