Weak law enforcement compromising safety of buses

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By Samwel Doe Ouma @samweldoe

Public service vehicles (PSVs) bus bodies manufacturers comply with the government bus bodies construction standard, Eng. Carey Mbaraka, Kenya Association of Bus Manufacturers (KABM) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) told Safari Njema magazine.

The bus body construction standard, KS 372:2014 came into effect mid last year as the government sought to improve passenger safety. Eng. Mbaraka emphasized that all buses undergo pre- registration inspection to ensure conformity to the standard that specifies requirements for passenger vehicle body construction. He however, decried lack of law enforcement post-registration saying that some matatu operators make modifications that may compromise structural integrity of the buses.

“Inadequate enforcement is hampering implementation of the safety standards as some vehicles once they get conformity approvals and registrations documents go to backstreet garages to be ‘pimped up’ something which ends up interfering with approved designs,” he says.  “The government made it mandatory for bodybuilding units to adhere the PSV Bus Body Standard KS 372 code in bid to reduce severity of injuries and prevent fatalities in event of a crash,” Eng. Mbaraka said. “The PSV bus body standard is well developed however there is lack of capacity to enforce,” he posed.

The standard, according to Mbaraka, requires vehicle manufacturers to prepare vehicles designs ad submit them to KABM for approval before building the bus body and seats. Narian Sokhi, Kenya Coach Industry (KCI) Managing Director, affirms all bus body builders are compliant to the KS 372 standard. “No new passenger buses are registered to operate by NTSA before going through the rigorous process by KABM KS 372 inspection engineers and issued with the Vehicle Inspection Notification Chip known as (VIN) plate which acts as a compliance certificate to allow for NTSA pre-registration inspections,” Sokhi said.

He says that introduction of the anti-roll bars as a mandatory in bus body construction has increased costs of production but has made buses structurally stable and safe. According to KS 372 code, locally assembled and imported buses should comply with standardized parameters of the floor levels, gangways, dimension of footsteps, seats, seat belts installations, seating layout, hand rails and hand holds.

The standard also stipulates the lighting and illumination conditions of the vehicle, driver’s work place, sizes of emergency exits and window frames positioning. Other specified elements include overhead luggage racks and a host of other facets concerning the exterior body projections and interior fittings. Under the new code, NTSA authorized KABM to carry out body integrity inspections. Kenya has about 17 licensed bus body builders.

Enforcement of the standard eliminated roadside bus-body builders, enhancing traceability of builders as well as ensuring uniformity of materials used in fabrication. NTSA Director General, Francis Meja earlier this year told the National Assembly, Transport and Public Works Committee that all PSVs will be KS 372 standard compliant by 2023.

“No PSV will be licensed to operate on the Kenyan roads unless they have satisfied an inspection by Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) at the port or approved to comply after inspection by KABM if they conform to the manufacturing standard specifications,” Meja told the Parliamentary Transport committee. The bus bodybuilding industry dates back to 1959. Currently, about 14 companies command over 90 per cent of the local market.

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