Dubai: School transport operators are facing several challenges adjusting with the ‘new normal’ as students are set to return to school on August 30, after being away from the classroom for more than five months.
“Honestly speaking, flexible classes may be good, but for school transport service providers, it involves a significant increase in cost to ensure safety measures,” Shailesh Dash, board member of Gulf Pinnacle Logistics that owns Gulf Pinnacle Transport (GPT), told Gulf News .
Dash said field staff, drivers and assistants will have to work in different shifts as students have the option to go to class either in the morning or afternoon. Aside from distance-learning and mix of in-person and online classes, students can also have a normal school day or go to school on alternate days.
GPT has a fleet of 275 buses transporting over 6,800 students across Dubai and neighbouring emirates. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, school buses ran at optimum capacity but now operators have to roll out more bus trips to ferry students in compliance with 50 per cent seating capacity mandated by authorities.
“Flexible working model is going to affect the school transportation business in terms of more field trips, rotating field staff and sanitising transport after every one-way trip,” Dash said.
“So, it’s not an easy way to sustain a tough daily routine with extra precautionary measures but we’re confident to survive this difficult time for the sake of all stakeholders involved more importantly the students,” he added.
Costs not to be passed on
Nausherwan Hussain of Arab Falcon Bus Rental, which provides bus transport to over 2,300 children across 11 schools in Dubai, told Gulf News, “With buses running at 50 per cent capacity and ensuring all sanitisation and other precautionbary measures are in place, our operations will be more expensive. But we are not passing on the costs to the parents.”
He said there would be no question of compromising on the safety of the children and all precautionary measures, as stipulated by the authorities, would be implemented.
Dash said: “We are totally onboard with the concerned authorities to chalk out a practical solution and implement a business model by not passing on additional costs to students and parents.
"We will not compromise on safety of our students or staff and will go extra mile to protect them. We will ensure pre-trip bus sanitisation, social distancing of students at every stage (pre-boarding, onboard and de-boarding). We will observe wearing of face masks, personal hygiene, daily temperature checks, post-trip sanitisation and we will maintain maximum bus capacity at 50 per cent as advised by the authorities,” he underlined.
Dash added GPT is also working with its technology partner to develop an app to monitor the disinfection process after every trip.