Jun 29 2011 by Johnathon Menzies, Stirling Observer Wednesday
A STRING of defects were found when vehicles ferrying children to Blair Drummond Safari Park were subjected to safety checks last week.
Officers from Central Scotland Police, as well as members of the Vehicle and Operators Services Agency (VOSA), found oil leaks, in addition to faulty brakes, seatbelts and emergency exits as 45 buses came under the microscope.
In addition to the structural problems – which saw two coaches banned from the road immediately – a pair of drivers were unable to prove how long they’d been behind the wheel when asked by the local constabulary and were barred from their duties for nine hours each.
Les Wallace, of the force’s roads policing unit, said problems were found with 11 of the vehicles inspected over the course of the week – but added none of the issues stopped the schoolchildren, many of whom were local, from enjoying their end-of-term trips.
“The safety of the children was the reason we decided to carry-out the checks last week. Dozens of buses arrive at the park on a daily basis and officers targeted vehicles which they suspected to have faults,” Mr Wallace explained.
“Two vehicles were immediately put off the road. In both instances, the rear emergency exits could not be opened.
“When defects were found on buses of such a nature that they were prohibited from the road network, the children continued with their day out and a replacement bus was sent to convey them on their return journey.
“In the cases relating to the drivers, their employers would have had to get another driver out to drive the bus back when the children finished their visit.
“The majority of the buses were from operators based outside our force area. They are travelling longer distances, which is obviously an issue as far as safety is concerned.
“However, we are happy in the knowledge that when they left Blair Drummond Safari Park the coaches, drivers and, crucially, the youngsters themselves were safe.”
Mr Wallace added that three vehicles carrying pupils to schools in the Stirling area were also targeted before officers inspected the buses at the area’s popular nature reserve.
One of them was found to have a steering defect and faulty emergency exit, and was subsequently taken off the road.
Drivers of the other two buses were given time to have their defects repaired, according to a spokeperson from Central Scotland Police.
The force representative asked anyone with any information to telephone 01786 456000, or anonymously on 0800 555111.