Fears over safety of school buses after spot checks reveal faults in one in three vehicles

Schoolchildren were on this bus when it caught fire

Schoolchildren were on this bus when it caught fire

First published in News

A CAMPAIGNER is demanding action after spotchecks revealed faults in one in three school buses in Dorset.

Margaret Morrissey, of Parents Outloud, said the findings will ‘greatly concern’ parents and school governors.

Dorset Police carried out the checks with officers from the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA) across the county.

Of the 61 school buses and minibuses which were inspected, 20 offences were found, ranging from lack of required ‘school bus’ signage and an expiration date on emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers and first aid supplies.

Inspectors also found eight taxis and private hire cars committing offences connected with lighting and tyres out of 14 vehicles that were checked.

Four of the buses were ordered to be taken off the road if the issues were not fixed within 10 days.

Dorset County Council is responsible for school transport, though most services are contracted out to a number of companies.

A spokesperson for Damory, which runs a number of school bus services in Dorset, confirmed that they owned three of the vehicles found to have problems.

The spokesperson said: “Passenger safety is our absolute top priority and we are proud of our vehicles – with rigorous maintenance checks and processes in place to ensure they continue to operate in top condition.

“Despite being given 10 days by VOSA to comply with the notices, these vehicles were taken immediately and checked.

“Any mechanical imperfections, no matter how small, were rectified.”

Mrs Morrissey said: “I do think that of all the vehicles that need to be regularly and highly maintained, school transport should be top of the agenda.

“I would hope Dorset County Council can give a reason for this and assure us that vehicles are regularly checked.”

A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: “At the beginning of March, Dorset County Council supported VOSA and Dorset Police in carrying out checks on school transport vehicles and drivers at schools around the county.

“These are random checks carried out on a regular basis to ensure the proper maintenance of vehicles and the safety of school pupils.

“On this occasion, some vehicles were found to have minor failings. Most of these were resolved very quickly on site, and the remainder were fixed within 24 hours of the inspections.”

Road casualty reduction co-ordinator PC Heidi Moxam said: “The aim of the day was to identify those vehicles that are not complying with legislation in a bid to make the roads of Dorset safer.”

Issues previously raised

THE damning inspection follows a number of issues when Dorset County Council awarded the school bus contract to Damory in 2011.

At the same time the authority hiked the price of a concessionary ticket from £250 to £400.

A report into the problems found that not all drivers were checked for criminal offences, that Damory did not have enough drivers or depot space and that drivers were not given passenger lists by DCC, so no one knew how many children should be on each bus.

In another incident, a school bus caught fire outside the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester in December last year.

Pupils were evacuated as around 15 firefighters battled the blaze on the Damory coach.

Comments (4)

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11:49am Thu 10 Apr 14

muscliffman says...

VOSA quite righty carry out these sort of checks, but even they confirm what they found was 'minor' and in many cases limited to the 'sell by' date of the first aid kits on board the buses - so hardly headline worthy 'vehicle defects' and most certainly not a 'damning inspection' outcome.

Of course VOSA issue a press release to justify their day's work and naturally the media jump on board (kids & safety = story), but no school buses were immediately put off the road in this very thorough check so evidently none were regarded by VOSA as being in anyway unroadworthy or dangerous.

VOSA can of course walk into any bus Operator's Depot at any time of night or day and spot check an entire fleet and the Company vehicle and employee records unannounced, but such actions would not have the same public relations impact as a high profile school ground exercise or generate the same headlines.

So how about VOSA using their rarely exercised powers to carry out an identical exercise including detailed driver/vehicle document checks and full vehicle inspections on all the public's private cars and mini-buses delivering children to our local schools, now that might provide some genuinely interesting reading.
VOSA quite righty carry out these sort of checks, but even they confirm what they found was 'minor' and in many cases limited to the 'sell by' date of the first aid kits on board the buses - so hardly headline worthy 'vehicle defects' and most certainly not a 'damning inspection' outcome. Of course VOSA issue a press release to justify their day's work and naturally the media jump on board (kids & safety = story), but no school buses were immediately put off the road in this very thorough check so evidently none were regarded by VOSA as being in anyway unroadworthy or dangerous. VOSA can of course walk into any bus Operator's Depot at any time of night or day and spot check an entire fleet and the Company vehicle and employee records unannounced, but such actions would not have the same public relations impact as a high profile school ground exercise or generate the same headlines. So how about VOSA using their rarely exercised powers to carry out an identical exercise including detailed driver/vehicle document checks and full vehicle inspections on all the public's private cars and mini-buses delivering children to our local schools, now that might provide some genuinely interesting reading. muscliffman
  • Score: 2

12:39pm Thu 10 Apr 14

alasdair1967 says...

Minor issues not major issues ,if vehicles where unroadworthy vosa would have issued a gv9 notice rendering the vehicle immediately off the road scaremongering story making a mountain out of a mole hill
Minor issues not major issues ,if vehicles where unroadworthy vosa would have issued a gv9 notice rendering the vehicle immediately off the road scaremongering story making a mountain out of a mole hill alasdair1967
  • Score: 2

1:44pm Thu 10 Apr 14

Rich© says...

They are no longer referred to as VOSA, from April 2014 they are now know as DVSA as they were merged with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. https://www.gov.uk/g
overnment/organisati
ons/vehicle-and-oper
ator-services-agency


as muscliffman says: "So how about VOSA using their rarely exercised powers to carry out an identical exercise including detailed driver/vehicle document checks and full vehicle inspections on all the public's private cars and mini-buses delivering children to our local schools, now that might provide some genuinely interesting reading."

I test motor vehicles & the things I have seen over the years is horrendous ! But alas I cant see DVSA conducting roadside checks as they haven't got the manpower.

you may or may not be interested in vehicle failure rates & what we have failed them on, but you can find all the info on the web, just a few here
https://www.gov.uk/g
overnment/publicatio
ns/mot-failure-rates
-by-month-2008-to-20
09-and-2009-to-2010-
f0002697
They are no longer referred to as VOSA, from April 2014 they are now know as DVSA as they were merged with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. https://www.gov.uk/g overnment/organisati ons/vehicle-and-oper ator-services-agency as muscliffman says: "So how about VOSA using their rarely exercised powers to carry out an identical exercise including detailed driver/vehicle document checks and full vehicle inspections on all the public's private cars and mini-buses delivering children to our local schools, now that might provide some genuinely interesting reading." I test motor vehicles & the things I have seen over the years is horrendous ! But alas I cant see DVSA conducting roadside checks as they haven't got the manpower. you may or may not be interested in vehicle failure rates & what we have failed them on, but you can find all the info on the web, just a few here https://www.gov.uk/g overnment/publicatio ns/mot-failure-rates -by-month-2008-to-20 09-and-2009-to-2010- f0002697 Rich©
  • Score: 1

6:40pm Thu 10 Apr 14

chris100 says...

Did vosa issue fines to the drivers like they do to lorry drivers ?
Did vosa issue fines to the drivers like they do to lorry drivers ? chris100
  • Score: 0

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