The next time you send your chil­dren out on school buses, check if the ve­hi­cles are reg­is­tered. Unregistered ones can­not pro­vide in­sur­ance cov­er­age and the driv­ers are mostly un­trained to han­dle emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, write

New Straits Times - - Front Page - AZURA ABAS and FAIRUZ MOHD SHAHAR

The next time you send your chil­dren out us­ing unregistered school buses, re­mem­ber you are plac­ing their lives at risk.

Not only are your chil­dren not cov­ered by in­sur­ance, the driv­ers may not have the proper train­ing to pre­pare them in the event of an emer­gency.

Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said an es­ti­mated 1.5 mil­lion school­child­ren used reg­is­tered school buses un­til Novem­ber last year.

Malaysia has 5.07 mil­lion school­child­ren en­rolled in 10,180 schools, based on statis­tics from the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry.

Nancy said school buses that were reg­is­tered with the Land Pub­lic Trans­port Com­mis­sion (SPAD) would be el­i­gi­ble for the School Chil­dren In­sur­ance Cov­er­age Scheme (SCICS).

“About RM14 mil­lion is in­vested to pro­vide in­sur­ance cov­er­age for 1.5 mil­lion school­child­ren aged be­tween 7 and 19,” she told the

New Straits Times.

Nancy said SPAD in­tro­duced the SCICS to pro­vide a safety net for stu­dents and their fam­i­lies in the event of ac­ci­dents, in­clud­ing cov­er­age dur­ing school-ap­proved trav­els, such as ex­cur­sions and ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

She urged schools to ad­vise par­ents on the im­por­tance of us­ing reg­is­tered school buses.

She said school bus op­er­a­tors reg­is­tered with SPAD would also need to un­dergo the In­dus­trial Code of Prac­tice (ICOP) safety pro­gramme.

ICOP has five main el­e­ments — the man­age­ment and mon­i­tor­ing of safety of em­ploy­ees and the pub­lic; driver man­age­ment based on best prac­tices; ve­hi­cle man­age­ment to en­sure ve­hi­cles in op­ti­mum con­di­tion for the road; road travel risk man­age­ment; and, records man­age­ment.

“We have trained more than 2,000 op­er­a­tors un­der ICOP.”

Un­til last De­cem­ber, she said, there were 16,861 reg­is­tered school buses in the penin­sula run by 10,496 op­er­a­tors.

The high­est num­ber of reg­is­tered school buses is in Se­lan­gor (27 per cent), fol­lowed by Jo­hor (23 per cent), Kuala Lumpur (9.5 per cent) and Perak (7.2 per cent).

On unregistered school buses, Nancy said the author­i­ties had dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing them.

“When we con­duct op­er­a­tions, those stopped will tell our of­fi­cers that the stu­dents in their ve­hi­cles are their neigh­bours’ chil­dren and they are just giv­ing them a lift. We don’t have the num­ber, but we know they are around be­cause there is de­mand for unregistered op­er­a­tors.”

On mak­ing it com­pul­sory for school buses to be fit­ted with seat belts, she said the gov­ern­ment was al­ways look­ing to boost safety in pub­lic trans­port.

“While we want our chil­dren to buckle up in school buses, we want to do it grad­u­ally, es­pe­cially in new ve­hi­cles, with­out dis­rupt­ing the liveli­hood of the op­er­a­tors.”

Nancy said the ages of school buses ply­ing Malaysian roads ranged be­tween 15 and 25 years old, which rep­re­sents 54 per cent of the buses; less than 15 years (29 per cent); and, over 25 years old (17 per cent).

“The buses are al­lowed to op­er­ate up to 30 years as long as they pass the Com­put­erised Ve­hi­cle In­spec­tion Cen­tre (Pus­pakom) in­spec­tion. They have to get their ve­hi­cles checked twice a year.

“SPAD, how­ever, strongly en­cour­ages op­er­a­tors to re­place ve­hi­cles over 25-year-old.”

To en­cour­age op­er­a­tors to re­place ag­ing buses, she said, SPAD

had in­tro­duced the School Bus Re­place­ment Scheme from Jan­uary 2013 to De­cem­ber 2014.

A to­tal of RM185 mil­lion were dis­bursed to 213 ap­pli­cants out of 233 un­der a soft loan scheme of­fered at a low re­pay­ment rate of two per cent.

“The Fi­nance Min­istry also al­lo­cated funds to pro­vide RM10,000 re­bates for the down­pay­ment of new bus pur­chases and as sub­sidy for the re­pay­ment of the soft loan.”

How­ever, Nancy said, the scheme had been dis­con­tin­ued due to low take-up.

She said the school bus in­dus­try was a small one.

She said school buses were mostly in­di­vid­u­ally owned at more than 77 per cent due to min­i­mal en­try re­quire­ments.

“Eleven per cent are un­der pri­vate lim­ited com­pa­nies, five per cent un­der statu­tory bod­ies, 4.7 per cent un­der part­ner­ships and the re­main­der (2.3 per cent) are un­der co-op­er­a­tives, pub­lic listed com­pa­nies and as­so­ci­a­tions.”

Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri says there is de­mand for unregistered school buses.

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