Bus Éireann Safety Statement
The School Transport Scheme
The scheme supports transport to and from school for children throughout the country who reside remote from their nearest school. Bus Éireann operates the Scheme on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills with a fleet of over 4,500 vehicles. There are over 40 million passenger journeys made on the School Transport Scheme each year. Some 90% of these vehicles are owned by independent contractors. There are numerous other private operators who have vehicles used as school buses in a private capacity, which are not connected to the Scheme we administer and are outside the Scheme’s remit.
In order to be considered roadworthy a bus must pass an annual Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Test (CVRT), conducted under the auspices of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) at approved test centres around the country. Bus Éireann school transport providers are contractually obliged to ensure that their vehicle has an up to date roadworthiness certificate issued by an RSA accredited test centre when a contract is signed. The contractor is obliged to keep their roadworthiness certificate current and up to date at all times and provide Bus Éireann with evidence of this.
All school buses in service - procured by Bus Éireann to provide services under the School Transport Scheme - that are subject to roadside inspections must have current roadworthiness certification at the time of inspection.
Agreements with contracted providers
A detailed contract is put in place for all contracted services – which includes numerous safety-related items. There is a strict process in place before any vehicle or driver is added to the approved list for provision of services under the School Transport Scheme. Required documentation is checked and copies are held by Bus Éireann School Transport offices. This documentation includes insurance and insurance indemnity, valid Road Passenger Transport Operator Licence (with required vehicles added), valid Certificate of Roadworthiness (CRW), appropriate valid Public Service Vehicle licence (large/small) (PSV) and evidence of Tax Clearance.
Bus Éireann contracts also include a stipulation that requires all operators to have planned maintenance programmes, with checking intervals of not more than six weeks. Every Contractor is also responsible as an individual bus operator, licensed by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, to ensure they comply with legislation in all respects
Additional vehicle checks
In addition to statutory requirements, Bus Éireann arranges for additional examinations of vehicles operating under the Scheme – which are both targeted and random. These additional quality assurance checks are carried out by an independent agency on our behalf. Almost one on five of the fleet gets an extra roadworthiness check each year under this audit which is designed to enhance the safety of the school bus services we provide in the intervening period between annual RSA roadworthiness tests.
Any vehicles that fail these examinations are stood down until any defects are rectified by the contractor. If contractors are found not to have carried out the required improvements to the fleet, they face penalties up to and including termination of contract.
Drivers are obviously an important part of the safe delivery of services under the Scheme. Contractors’ drivers must be medically checked by a qualified doctor before being added to the list of approved drivers under the Scheme. The assessment is required to be based on the latest RSA ‘Medical Fitness to Drive’ guidelines and is checked by Bus Éireann and records are maintained. All drivers are also Garda vetted when first added to the approved list of drivers and are then re-vetted at five yearly intervals if still on the approved panel. A new process of e-vetting has been successfully introduced.
Supervision of services in local areas
Our team of dedicated mobile School Transport Supervisors ensure the safe and effective delivery of services and respond to incidents and emergencies as required throughout the country. They also carry out unannounced inspections on every School Transport service. This inspection includes a check on tickets to ensure that all those on board have valid tickets, but also includes a check on the driver and a visual check on key vehicle safety items. Immediate action is taken following detection of non-compliance and follow-up checks are subsequently carried out. Our Supervisors also carry out checks on new school transport routes and stops, and also assess pick-up points from a safety point of view. We do as much as practicable to reduce the risk to students, drivers, passenger escorts and other road users.
Students and their parents/guardians
Bus Éireann recognises the important role that parents and guardians play in a child’s education and in the safe transport of the child to and from school. An advice booklet with important safety information is circulated at the start of each school term along with the term ticket. Our website is updated to offer advice on student safety when using transport. Particular emphasis is placed on getting the child safely to and from the pick-up point.
Bus Éireann promotes an environment where children are welcomed, respected, cared for and protected from harm. Our staff, contractors and their employees understand that they have a duty and responsibility to safeguard children and comply with company guidelines and procedures. Our information booklets and website guidance focus on encouraging good student behaviour, careful boarding/alighting, seat belt wearing, stowing of school bags etc.
Our Child Protection Policy and Guidelines are consistent with the principles set out in “Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children” and are in line with best practice in this area. We also have a detailed Bullying and Harassment policy covering services provided under the Scheme.
Bus Éireann have always worked with the RSA and other organisations to improve the safety standards across all of our fleet, which continue on an ongoing basis. We also have the wider responsibility for the overall safe operation of the Scheme and protection of children when travelling. We continually add new safety measures and safety awareness initiatives for the school transport sector, the most recent of which includes the roll-out of a mandatory maintenance questionnaire for current and prospective contract holders to augment and align contractor maintenance practices with RSA guidelines and Bus Éireann contract requirements.