A grouping of public service vehicle (PSV) owners is proposing the use of private contractors to provide student transport services, similar to what pertains in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) said this would reduce violence on school buses, such as the incident last week, in which three students of the Frederick Smith Secondary School allegedly attacked and injured a conductor with a cutlass.
AOPT President Roy Raphael told Barbados TODAY he had made the recommendation in the past, but it had not gone down well with either the public or the authorities.
However, Raphael said with concerns rising about the level of violence by students using the public transport system, this may be a good time to consider hiring private contractors to take the pupils to and from school.
“I am not calling for the PSVs to manage this school bus service. You can give special licence to retired persons who can transport the children from one school to the next. It will personalize the driver with the children. So they will know the children by name and family, so if there are any challenges you can quickly deal with it,” the PSV executive said.
It is estimated that approximately 40 per cent of school districts in the United States use contractors to transport students, while in Canada, where some buses are operated by school boards, and the United Kingdom, almost all school transportation is performed by contractors.
These contractors range from individual drivers with a single bus, to small companies, to large multi-national companies.
Raphael said a similar move here would free up the Transport Board and private PSV buses to serve the rest of the travelling population.
However, it is the possible impact this would have on violence among students and against operators and conductors which the AOPT head sees as most beneficial.
“In terms of last week’s ordeal, I think it will curb it. The children and the drivers will be familiar like in America. There are regulations that allow students to sit and not stand in a bus, they also have cameras and so on, I think it will be well managed once the regulations are on the books. I don’t anticipate any problems,” he explained.
Raphael made it clear his association would not tolerate violence by students, or anyone for that matter, stressing that it was an offence to create a disturbance on the roads and a criminal act to introduce violence on PSVs.
He also admitted that in the past, the PSVs were subject to raucous behaviour and vandalism by students because of the type of music that was being played.
However, the AOPT president said this was a thing of the past, and he hoped it was not rear its ugly head again.
“We would have had incidents relating to school children in terms of criminal damage to the vans and situations where certain type of music played on the vans encouraged school children into that type of behaviour. They have become things of the past, but we hope they don’t creep back in now and repeat itself,” he said.