Dubai: School transport regulations are expected to get tighter under a new master plan currently being studied by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
The revised school transportation master plan is likely to set higher standards for the sector, enhancing safety for students on the road.
Speaking to Gulf News, Ahmad Hashem Behroozian, CEO of RTA's Public Transport Agency — which governs both general transportation in Dubai and school transport operations — said the existing School Bus Transport Manual will be modified and revised as part of the new master plan.
“The study is in progress and changes will be implemented accordingly. International benchmarking will identify the best practices in school buses specifications and in applying them in school buses all over Dubai,” said Behroozian.
However, the proposed changes, the details of which are not yet available, will not come into effect immediately.
School transport masterplan
“The update of the rules and regulations governing school transportation will be done as part of the school transportation masterplan study, and be updated and modified if needed. The law, however, is revised frequently to assure smooth transport for all students in Dubai,” said Behroozian.
The revision will be based on a number of surveys that gathered statistics on school bus users in Dubai, and to understand the reasons for not using school bus services by some.
RTA standards require that school buses comply with a set of specifications, ranging from speed limitation to safety specifications. It also requires bus drivers and attendants to get special training before acquiring permits to operate school buses.
Last year, the RTA updated its school transport regulations, changing the seating arrangement to 3+2 and making the GPS tracking system mandatory on all buses. The new rules also banned window curtains on school buses.
In 2017, the authorities banned overtaking of a school bus when it is dropping off or picking up a student. The fine for overtaking a school bus is Dh1,000 and 10 black points.
According to the RTA, the stringent measures have resulted in zero fatalities involving school buses since 2015.
Dashboard in view
As the new academic year starts next week, school transport operators are all geared up to serve more than 145,000 students from around 200 private schools in Dubai.
With technological upgrades, new safety apparatus and better route planning, more than 6,500 buses will do the school run this year, up from 6,400 last year. These are managed by 309 private companies and 109 schools operating their own buses.
The number of RTA-certified school bus drivers has also increased from 6,093 last year to 6134; 5,560 supervisors will be tending to students in the buses.
Speaking to Gulf News, Ganesh Sivaraman, director of Gulf Pinnacle Transport (GPT), which serves 6,000 school students in Dubai said that the company’s network of buses is ready for the new academic year.
“Our teams will be present during orientation days at the schools to share the details of our service and safety standards,” said Sivaraman, who oversees 250 buses serving 15 schools.
He added that as part of its continuous technological upgrades, GPT is introducing an ‘administrative dashboard’ at schools where the movement of vehicles, exact location, the students’ movement (in and out) are displayed as live feeds.
“This (dashboard) will restrict unauthorised movement of vehicles and ensure that no child is left unattended after a trip,” he said.
With schools reopening next Sunday, most operators are busy re-registering the students, confirming the routes and realigning their networks.
“We are well prepared for the reopening with all our buses, drivers and supervisors ready to serve the student community. We have everything in place and in compliance with the RTA requirements,” said Nausherwan Hussain, general manager of Arab Falcon Bus Rental that operates 165 buses for 11 schools, including Raffles International, Dubai British School etc.
The RTA’s Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) also runs school transport services, with 368 buses transporting 8,873 students to and from 17 schools.
This year, the DTC has launched A smart app ‘DTC School Bus’ that enables parents to track the movement of their children from and to the school, besides the GPS satellite system, which sends notifications to parents when their children board or alight from buses.
Among other upgrades and safety enhancements, the engine switch-off button has been relocated to the rear end of the bus, behind the seats. This is to enable the driver to walk to the end of the bus to stop the engine, ensuring that no student is left behind on the bus before the doors are locked.