The Traffic Branch will ask the government to reduce by one the number of persons an omnibus is licensed to carry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG)
This is to ensure that the conductor has a seat at all times, head of the Traffic Branch of the Police Force, Superintendent of Police Kenneth John told a meeting of police and omnibus conductors in Kingstown on Tuesday.
The meeting was lively, cordial and jovial, with a healthy exchange among the persons present.
The police went through the law as it pertains to conductors, and explained what are their (conductors’) roles and responsibilities and offences and the penalties under the law.
The police pointed out that the law says that a conductor shall not permit more passengers to be carried in an omnibus than it is licensed to carry.
President of the National Omnibus Association (NOBA), Anthony “Code Red” Bacchus, pointed out what seems to be a grey area in the law in this regard.
“A bus is licensed to carry 18 passengers. The conductor and the driver are not included as passengers. So that gives the driver and conductor permission to stand up,” Bacchus said.
“Eighteen fare-paying passengers,” another person commented from the floor.
But John responded: “Everyone should be seated in the vehicle. And that’s why under the new Traffic Act, we are asking now that these vans that are normally licensed for 18 passengers carry 17 and the conductor would get a proper seat.”
Under the law, when determining the capacity of an omnibus, two persons under the age of 10 are counted as one passenger, and infants held in the arms of another person are not counted.
This means that a minivan licensed to carry 18 passengers can legally carry 36 children under the age of 10.
The police said that they have observed that some conductors, rather than drivers, seem to be in charge of some omnibuses. This, they said, is not the law.
The traffic officers further said that they have observed that some conductors allow children to sit anywhere in omnibuses.
Children, they say, should not be allowed to sit near windows, and when this cannot be avoided, the windows should be closed, thereby preventing children from sticking their heads or arms outside the omnibus.
John noted the importance of this, citing the death of 9-year-old student, Kunja Browne, as a result of injuries he sustained while travelling in an omnibus along the Kingstown-Redemption Sharpes route on Oct. 9.
vThe traffic chief also noted that the law demands that every omnibus have a conductor and that the conductor must be the holder of a valid conductor permit.
He said his department is moving to having persons vetted, to ensure that they meet the legal requirement of being mentally and physically fit to serve as conductors.
Sergeant Henry Providence told the meeting that a number of conductors are not up-to-date regarding their legal responsibilities.
“Conductors were simply going on the bus thinking it is just picking up the fare and that was mainly their role and responsibility.”
He said that as part of Traffic Branch’s education drive, they saw a need to educate conductors, owners and operators, hence the meeting.
“It is important for police to work along with owners and operators; work along with the public,” he said.
The meeting revealed the extent of the leeway that police grant to omnibus operators and conductors, especially at bus terminals, in light of the competitive nature of the privately-owned public transport system, as well as the need to revise some of the laws.
For instance, under the law, it is an offence for minibus operators to use their horns to solicit passengers, and a conductor who grabs a would-be passenger’s grocery bag or other items in an effort to induce them to ride in his/her van can also be charged.
The law also says that it is an offence for an omnibus to refuse passengers who are willing to pay the fare, as is often done to children.