Abu Dhabi school bus drivers ready for start of term

Last February, tough new regulations for Abu Dhabi's 6,000 school buses were announced as part of safety measures largely driven by the death of a three-year-old girl who was locked inside a school bus in October last year.
School bus companies such as Emirates Transport, which recently launched a smart system for its buses, are making the welfare of pupils their priority and have prepared for the new academic year with intensive training courses for staff. Christopher Pike / The National
School bus companies such as Emirates Transport, which recently launched a smart system for its buses, are making the welfare of pupils their priority and have prepared for the new academic year with intensive training courses for staff. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // With thousands of children returning to school on Sunday, keeping them safe while on school buses is top priority.

“School bus drivers should be rested and fit to drive each day, minimise any distractions, drive within the speed limits, leave adequate space for an emergency stop and maintain a two-to-three second distance with the vehicle in front,” said Dino Kalivas, chairman of the driver education and training committee at the International Road Federation.

“They need to scan the road, use mirrors and indicators and adhere to traffic rules,” he said.

When stopping to collect or allow schoolchildren to disembark at the bus stops, drivers should be most vigilant.

“That is often where the driver has a very limited view of passengers who are leaving and entering the bus,” he said. Parents, guardians and school bus supervisors should stay clear of the bus zone area and only allow children to get on and off the bus when it has stopped and after receiving instructions from the driver, Mr Kalivas said.

Emirates Transport, which serves public and private schools, has provided training for its bus drivers and supervisors.

“They received training two weeks before the start of the new school year,” said Aamer Al Shehhi, its school transport manager in Abu Dhabi.

Its bus drivers have completed a total of 30,000 training hours, while supervisors received 35,000 hours under the supervision of Abu Dhabi Education Council.

The courses were traffic safety awareness, dealing with children, parents and the general public, first aid, emergency procedures and fire safety training.

The company has added 627 school buses across the country, increasing its fleet to 4,465.

It has imported 152 buses for Abu Dhabi schools to modernise its fleet.

It operates 2,090 school buses in Abu Dhabi emirate, with a capacity of 137,317 seats to cover 254 schools through 63,900 meeting points and 3,056 bus routes.

“Our buses undergo regular maintenance and safety checks throughout the year, but in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, all buses have to be thoroughly maintained,” Mr Al Shehhi said.

There are about 129,000 pupils in Abu Dhabi government schools. Of those, 98,171 use Emirates Transport buses.

Bus companies are required to provide male and female supervisors to accompany pupils and ensure they are not dropped off on the opposite side of the road from which they live.

Emirates Transport buses has 2,027 drivers, with 2,439 male and female supervisors on board. About 78 per cent of these supervisors are Emiratis. In addition to the smart system initiative launched on Wednesday, a student safety card will be put in place soon to ensure safety of children travelling by bus to and from school, said Mohammed Al Jarman, the company’s general manager.

“Details of their journey will be retrieved and verified by parents and parties concerned,” he said.

Last February, tough new regulations for Abu Dhabi’s 6,000 school buses were announced as part of safety measures largely driven by the death of a three-year-old girl who was locked inside a school bus in October last year.

These included mandatory seat belts, medical tests for drivers and training courses on pupil safety.

Emirates Driving Company has trained 564 bus drivers and 380 supervisors in defensive driving, traffic safety, daily inspection of buses and safe boarding and disembarking. “It’s important for parents to feel that their beloved children will reach school and return home safely,” said Khaled Al Mansoori, the company’s chief executive.

rruiz@thenational.ae

Published: August 29, 2015 04:00 AM

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