Yellow school vans to hit road Monday
By SASHA HARRINANAN Tuesday, August 27 2013
BRIGHT yellow vans will begin hitting the nation’s roads when the new school term begins on Monday, as the Transport Ministry moves to enforce legislation which requires all official school transportation vehicles to meet international standards.
Speaking to Newsday yesterday afternoon, Transport Commissioner Rueben Cato said “this initiative has been on the cards since 1997 but the legislation wasn’t put in place until last October. That’s why members of the School Transportation Association (STA) have until October 31, 2013, to become regularised.”
Some school vehicles have already been painted yellow while the rest must do so by the October 31 deadline.
What exactly does the legislation mean for the more than 800 men and women who are members of the STA? Come November 1, they must have completed the following requirements:
1) Registered their vehicles as “for hire” (getting an “H” licence plate).
2) Obtained a taxi badge.
3) Completed a defensive driving course.
4) Gained certification in basic first aid.
5) Obtained a certificate of good character from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
6) Re-painted their vehicles a “bright” yellow, the internationally recognised colour of school buses.
Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma yesterday said, “We are doing this to ensure all official school transportation vehicles fall in line with international best practices. All buses, existing and new, will be painted that distinctive yellow and have their specific number prominently displayed.”
Newsday also spoke to STA President George LaVende about the new requirements. While he welcomed the decision to make the vehicles “much easier to recognise,” he expressed concern about the associated costs and the October 31 deadline.
“We would like the deadline extended until January 31, 2014. Most of our members earn a modest income and it costs an average of $10,000 to paint a 12-seater van. Then there’s the estimated $500 fee for a defensive driving course, and another $500 or so for the fist aid course. We are in full support of the plans but we are making a request to Minister Sharma to please extend the deadline,” he said.
LaVende also expressed concern yesterday about being able to meet the rent on its offices in Arima. Located on the corner of Woodford and Farfan Streets, STA pays $3,000 a month rent, which may seem reasonable, but LaVende said “it’s sometimes difficult to make the rent because a lot of our members don’t pay their dues.”
Each member is supposed to pay $100 per school term to the STA, but with this having proved difficult to enforce so far, LaVende is appealing to Sharma to help the association find a cheaper place to rent, or to subsidise the current rent.
“We know there are HDC (Housing Development Corporation) offices for rent in Bon Air, which I believe go for $1,000- $1,800. That we could afford on our current income,” LaVende said.