Face-to-face classes have returned and many motorists are already bemoaning the heavy traffic that comes with it. Thankfully, the school service vehicles have returned as well, bringing kids to school and hopefully reducing the number of cars on the road.
The LTFRB has recently updated the list of requirements these vehicles must comply with in order to secure a franchise to operate. These are all welcome improvements providing peace of mind of parents, knowing that the vehicles ferrying our children are well equipped for their needs and protection.
First of all, any vehicle applying to be a school service must be painted in the appropriate yellow color so that they me be easily identified. Caution stripes must also be visible in the front and back of the vehicles. They must have “School Service” written along their side, as well as all the other necessary LTFRB markings. Finally, any vehicle applying for a franchise must be less than 15 years old.
Besides those, there are also some new additions. One new requirement is that there are seatbelts for all passengers. Another requirement is steel grilled windows. These must be fitted to ensure that children’s hands and heads stay inside the vehicle even when the window is open.
These vehicles are also required to have a working portable fire extinguisher and first-aid kit. These are actually common sense, but it’s surprising how many of our own personal cars don’t even have these as standard. Thankfully, they’re a requirement for these buses.
Finally, another requirement that some might find odd is the “STOP” and “GO” sign to be carried by the conductor when children cross the street. This is actually standard practice in school buses in some U.S. states where there needs to be a conductor to help children (especially young ones) cross the street. With the prevalence of large SUVs these days, it’s a good idea to have an adult to carry such as sign at most drivers’ eye level. After all, a child crossing the street might be difficult to spot, especially from the point of view in a large SUV.
Finally, both the driver and conductor must be wearing prescribed uniforms, wear face masks at all times, as well as submit to regular examination of health and fitness requirements.
How to drive around buses
With these school services plying our road once again, it’s important to also learn how to properly drive around them. After all, they are carrying children, and extra care must be taken when encountering them on the road.
First of all, when around a school service in traffic, exercise caution and drive more carefully. The last thing you want is to hit these vehicles and cause injury to the children inside.
When a school bus is slowing down or coming to a stop, do so as well. It’s wiser to simply wait out their unloading process rather than simply overtaking out of impatience. You’ll never know when a child might simply run across the street, eager to get on the bus or to get home. Respect the conductor and follow his orders when he raises that stop sign. It will only take a few moments after all.
When the school shuttle service is traveling on the road, always signal your intentions when around it. Remember that the driver has to contend with the noise and disturbance the children are likely causing inside the vehicle. If you are passing, turn on your turn signals, flash your lights, and let out a courtesy honk to let him know you’re there. If you must overtake, pass the vehicle slowly and always on the left side.
These are just a few reminders when driving around school shuttle services vehicles to ensure both parties are safe on the road.
(Iñigo S. Roces is the Motoring Editor of Manila Bulletin)