NTSA drafts regulations for school transport

The wreckage of Kapsabet Boys' bus after it was involved in a crash along Marigat-Kabarnet Road on March 16, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

In a bid to curb accidents, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) is proposing new measures to enhance safety.

The draft statutes lined up for public participation are contained in the Traffic (School Transport) Rules, 2024 and NTSA (Operation of Commercial Service) Regulations 2024.

The authority has notified the public about the intended public participation to be held in Garissa, Meru, Embu, Nairobi, Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kilifi, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kericho, Kisii, Kisumu, Kakamega and Uasin Gishu counties.

NTSA, which was recently ordered back to the roads is in the spotlight over the rising cases of accidents the latest being on Monday at Ngata Bridge in Nakuru where eight people died following a collision between a matatu and trailer.

The authority is upbeat that the proposed regulations will ensure effective road safety and management in the country.

In the Traffic (School Transport) Rules, 2024 drafted by Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen, school vehicles shall be inspected twice a year and must be fitted with functional safety belts designed to be used by children.

Most school buses are hardly inspected and stakeholders in the education sector have attributed their poor condition to accidents.

The vehicles must have at least one fire extinguisher conforming to the applicable standard issued by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs). The fire extinguisher must be accessible and available for use on board.

Further, the vehicles should be installed with mirrors that enable the driver to have adequate visibility of the sides, rear and along both sides of the bus.

“All the school vehicles shall be fitted with a vehicular telematic system conforming to the applicable Kenyan standard approved by Kebs,” states section 11 of the proposed regulations. A telematics system is simply a tracking device that captures and stores a combination of data.

Should the regulations be adopted, all seats must be fixed and not foldable, free from sharp edges and upholstered with soft, shock-absorbent and fire-resistant materials.

The seat handles, if any, shall be covered with a material that prevents injury in any collision and no bars or any other obstructions will be fixed on the windows whether from the inside or outside.

Moving forward, drivers of school vehicles must validly be licensed by NTSA for the category of school vehicle being driven.

Drivers shall have to successfully undergo and pass an annual assessment for criminal record. This shall include convictions of child abuse and incidents of arrests for driving under the influence or other drugs.

“A school vehicle driver who possesses a criminal record containing a conviction for child abuse and driving under the influence or other drugs shall be disqualified from being a school vehicle driver,” states the draft regulations.

The drivers will have to undertake and pass annual medical tests.

Should the proposed regulations become law, it will be mandatory for drivers to conduct thorough pre-trip and post-trip checks on the vehicle to ensure that the vehicle and safety equipment is operational and that no child is left on board the vehicle.

Additionally, school attendants will have to be validly licensed by NTSA as public service vehicle conductors.

Most schools hire school attendants whose job is to assist children to safely embark and disembark the bus as well as aid the drivers. Just as required of drivers, they will undergo and pass an annual assessment for a criminal record.

School vehicles shall operate between 5 am and 10 pm while the maximum speed permitted shall be not more than 80kph.

“Each student must be allocated a seat. School transport providers should ensure that their vehicles do not carry passengers more than the number specified in the registration documents of those vehicles and every passenger shall be counted. Any person who contravenes this commits an offence,” states the regulations.

School transport providers shall ensure that the vehicles are regularly maintained and serviced and shall be required to keep records of each maintenance and service for each school vehicle for a period of two years.

Meanwhile, NTSA may conduct safety and compliance checks on school service providers to confirm compliance with the rules.