Persons board a minivan in Kingstown in June 2014. (Photo: Robertson Henry)

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.”

From left: Police officers Constable Bobb, Station Sergeant Junior Nero, Sergeant Henry Providence, and Superintendent Kenneth John at Tuesday's meeting. (IWN photo)
From left: Police officers Constable Bobb, Station Sergeant Junior Nero, Sergeant Henry Providence, and Superintendent Kenneth John at Tuesday’s meeting. (IWN photo)

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.

Some of the conductors at Tuesday's meeting.  (IWN photo)
Some of the conductors at Tuesday’s meeting. (IWN photo)

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.

4 replies on “Police to push for reduction of minibus passenger load”

  1. The Vans are licensed to carry 18 persons that is 16 passengers, a driver and a conductor.
    Frequently in the mornings on the Windward Highway vans carry 23 passenger the van driver and the conductor, totaling 25 persons in a van.

    Van drivers need to realize that when the van is overloaded steering and braking is seriously affected particularly when overtaking or cornering.

    They also need to be aware that when they overload their vans it affects the insurance which will be reduced to road traffic acts only. Which means that only the passengers and third party are insured and not the vehicle. So whatever damage they sustain to the vehicle or if is a total loss they will not get paid out by the insurance company even if they paid for fully comprehensive insurance.

    Police should spot check vans and any vehicle overloaded both the driver and the conductor should be prosecuted for endangering the lives of passengers and other road users. They should both also be banned from operating a van for 12 months on the first offence and fined and for life and fined on a second offence.

    One of the most serious problems is that many of the vans are owned by police or ex police and are members of the ULP allowing their vans to be used for political rallies. This I am sure gives them some degree of immunity or at the least a blind eye attitude from traffic police.

    1. Peter, here is a multiple choice question for you and your readers to be answered by rank ordering.

      As a people we have become:

      1. a thoroughly lawless society.

      2. a society where the laws are lackadaisically and serendipitously applied.

      3. a society where the laws are applied on the basis of political allegiance.

      4. a society where the laws are differentially applied based on socio-economic class.

      Please reply with your ranking of these four options.

      (My personal ranking would be 2, 4, 3, 1).

  2. In St. Lucia there are no conductors and the limit is 12 passengers thereby allowing for a comfortable ride for all.

    Bus fares should not be regulated by the government which uses this power to keep them so low that it is necessary to carry so many passengers (also known as voters).

    Either fares should deregulated or immediately raised by 25 percent combined with a reduction in passenger load to 14.

  3. All talk. The biggest problem with traffic issues is the enforcement of the laws. Law and order is either ignored entirely or selectively enforced.

    The minibuses have been allowed too many liberties for too long and now they are out of control. The police need to have strict enforcement of the laws pertaining to the operation of these minibuses. I think the reckless driving of these buses is a far more urgent issue than the reduction of the number of passengers. One just had to glance at the statistics of fatal vehicular accidents that occurred every year on our roads to realize, this is a matter that we should be addressing on a national scale with the utmost urgency.

    On the issue of the conductors, I have one request…be tidy in appearance. Some of these young men and older ones too, seem to jump from their bed straight to the bus. Nuff said.

    We can do so much better as a people, as a nation.

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