Safety in the coach sector! It remains - fortunately - a prominent subject on the agenda. But sometimes it may have a bit more attention, thought Frans Schuitemaker, former director of the Dutch coach company “Oad Bus”. He has developed a 'Best Practices Guideline' for the coach sector and hopes it will become a European 'Guideline'.
His idea is supported by the Dutch trade organization Busvervoer Nederland and the Dutch Coach Marque organization (Stichting Keurmerk Touringcarbedrijven). Despite good intentions 'safety' in the industry might become a neglected child. The danger lies in the lurking that safety measures are falling behind and that the operators might be relying too much on the technical safety systems present in the modern coaches. Schuitemaker thinks this is not enough and states that it is all about experience and that safety should be part of the DNA of the driver and the entrepreneur.
He believes that this idea for a Best Practices Guideline, analogue to the tank haulage sector, where it was implemented more than fifteen years ago, will create a healthier market with higher safety levels. But he says: “Involvement has to be created. The subject safety is almost non-existent in tenders. It must be put on the agenda and then a 'Best Practices Guideline' based on experience and requirements can be very helpful." His idea is that there has to be a discussion between the industry, the manufacturers and the users of the equipment. In addition the subject of 'safety' should be brought more to the attention of the drivers. "We have to learn from each other, but also from accidents or from the Road Safety Council. We should not wait for rules from Europe or legislation. That takes too long. If the client in particular is involved in safety issues, he will also prescribe this when purchasing his transport."
Schuitemaker realizes that a 'Best Practice Guideline' must be 'manageable'. For instance one of the issues he addresses is a simple one. In a coach there has to be a safety card but this might be placed somewhere were probably nobody will read it. When you put valuable specific information about the coaches on the card and also information about the safety systems that are present and simply put it in every seatpocket, people might want to read it." Another point he mentions is the warning light that people must have their seatbelt on, but they often do not wear them. “Make it dynamic so that people understand the impact of the warning light. It is about a change in behaviour.” Or what about this simple idea to place a few red and white pawns around the coach when loading and unloading the luggage compartments on the street side, so that the other traffic is alerted.
What is always striking is that new developments that serve safety are not fitted into the coach as standard, because it is price-increasing. According to Frans Schuitemaker, the solution lies in his 'Best Practices Guideline'. He reasons that if it is stated that certain safety systems are desirable and it is an issue in the Best Practices Guideline, than it will almost automatically become more then desirable and perhaps a kind of mandatory, even in advance of legislation. But it also appears that many drivers do not know what those systems do. "Educate the drivers" is the heart's cry of Schuitemaker. "Make them understand the systems. Training and familiarizing the driver with new safety systems, is a responsibility of the entrepreneur together with the manufacturer.”
He has put 38 points together with the intention that this 'Best Practices Guideline' is updated at least once every four years. But he thinks that it can only really make school if it can get a European commitment. "To be really successful these Best Practices Guideline have to go Europe wide and need support from the colleagues and the clients to increase safety."
Frans Schuitemaker can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org