FIVE buses from a fleet of 12 were found to be dangerously defective and unroadworthy following an inspection at a school premises in Co. Waterford. Three buses were prohibited from leaving the school parking area until the necessary repairs were carried out. The driver of one of the three buses received a fixed penalty charge at the scene for driving with a front tyre worn down to a dangerous level. The minimum legal thread is 1.6mm, if the tyre continues to be driven on, it will turn smooth and any further driving would expose the wire under the rubber. A source from the motor industry confirmed that tyres like this run a high risk of splitting or of blow-out, making them extremely dangerous, and at major risk of a crash when carrying the weight of a schoolbus.
Two more buses from the same operator were probihited from driving away due to safety concerns around hydraulic and pneumatic brakes. Images released by the Road Safety Authority showed evidence of dangerous levels of corrosion and perished brake infrastructure. The Road Safety Authority confirmed that the owner of the bus company will be prosecuted for their failure to maintain the brake systems on both buses.
The Waterford News & Star approached Bus Éireann for comment on the incidents. By way of response they said, “All vehicles operating school transport services are required to have valid Certificates of Roadworthiness/PSV checks and Insurance details, with all operators also required to have appropriate maintenance systems in place. All drivers must undergo medical checks and Garda vetting in line with current legislative requirements. It is the responsibility of each operator to ensure all vehicles are roadworthy and are properly maintained. Bus Éireann also employs an independent vehicle checking agency to undertake additional roadworthiness audits on fleet operating school transport services on behalf of the Department of Education.”
A spokesperson for Bus Éireann moved to assure the public that safety is of critical importance in relation to the operation of the school transport scheme on behalf of the Department of Education. On a daily basis, the scheme provides transport for over 114,000 students on 6,500 vehicles. It is understood that Bus Éireann are currently investigating the safety concerns for each vehicle and they have confirmed that action will be taken in line with internal safety procedures.
Bus operators are legally obliged to swiftly repair defects, conduct daily walk-around checks, have regular maintenance checks, and ensure buses are tested on time. A source has revealed that following last week’s safety checks, staff layoffs have taken place. Bus Eireann have not been forthcoming with any further details regarding the operator.