Dubai’s STS chief says no more ‘coffin on wheels’ from September

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Backs initiative by RTA and Dubai Police in drive to ensure child passenger safety

n 2012, 11% of all fatalities on the road involved a minibus and 15 died in accidents involving mini-buses.

Soon after these shocking stats were released by the Dubai Police, the Road Transport Authority (RTA) stepped in to highlight the need to take these “coffin-on-wheels” off the roads.

The School Transport Services LLC (STS) and Bright Bus Transport, which provides transportation to over 40 schools across the UAE, has since backed the initiative and that they will stop use of mini-vans from September this year.

“There’s no question of using it for one more year,” emphasised STS chief Colonel Mohanlal Augustine. “Once it is established that it is unsafe, we can’t use it.”

He informed that all mini-vans they use do come with seat belts and display state-of-the-art safety features, but the main concern is that they don’t have any emergency exits.

“Also, it isn’t a steady vehicle and can easily topple over.”

The mini-vans were used to transport lesser number of kids to routes closer to the school.

Of the 1,600 buses in the STS fleet, 140 are mini-vans. The company is responsible for transporting nearly 60,000 students to and from school every day.

The STS chief added that it is going to be a challenge to replace the 140 vans, but he is unwilling to do it because he isn’t willing to overlook the safety of his students.

STS prides itself in its safety features, and Col. Mohanlal detailed how his team of experts ensures every child travels in a safe environment from his home to the school, and back.

The drivers are well-trained, and have to conduct a safety check of the bus before it is approved for use.

“Every child is given an ID card, which they swipe when they board the bus. That information is automatically relayed to our control room, where a team sits and monitors the movement.

“The driver swipes the children out when they reach school, and he checks the bus to ensure no student is left behind before scanning his own ID and putting out the ‘No Passengers’.”

If there is any delay then a text message is sent out to the parents. And if they want to know the whereabouts of their child they can call the STS helpdesk for immediate support.

All the buses are under video monitoring, and the speed and route is constantly monitored through a GPS tracking system by experts seated at the STS control room.

“If the driver speeds or slows down below the specified limit, an alarm is raised, and the team checks the reason behind it.”

Col. Mohanlal also informed that the increase in fees this year, the first since the company was set up in 2008, was unavoidable.

“We’ve invested a lot in the security features and in order to keep improving the hike was necessary.”

The hike, he insisted, was in the bracket of Dh10, Dh20 and Dh30 (per month).

Despite the reduction in diesel prices Col. Mohanlal insisted that the hike will take care of the staff fee.

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