The importance of good management was emphasised to me by Malcolm Maylin, property manager at Glan Ely High School in Cardiff. He looks after Glan Ely's school minibus, and his care and attention to the task should serve as an example. Every Monday morning, he inspects and drives the bus, using a 19-point printed checklist which he signs. The same checks are used again before the vehicle does a journey of more than 100 miles. Any failure has to be put right before the bus can be used.
The Glan Ely Checklist * Mileage * Tyre Pressure The recommended pressure should be stencilled on the wheel arch. If it is not, and drivers guess at it, they may underinflate, because minibus tyres run at significantly higher pressures than those on cars. If the vehicle has twin rear wheels, it can be difficult to reach the valve on the inner wheel, and this may lead to its neglect. Any well known tyre specialist should fit an extension which brings the inside wheel valve level with the valve of the outside tyrefit, for about Pounds 20 per wheel u Tyre wear The legal limit for tread depth on a minibus is still only one millimetre. Malcolm Maylin recommends using 2mm as the limit for a school minibus. "The risk of punctures increases as tyres become more worn," he says. Do not forget to check the spare wheel. A wheel mounted underneath can be very difficult and dirty to reach. Malcolm Maylin had his minibus spare wheel mounted inside on a pillar between the rear door and the back of the rear seat. It has a tailor-made fabric cover, "so no pupil is tempted to let the air out". New tyres will cost Pounds 60 to Pounds 90 each depending on size. Shop around by phone, and check whether the local authority has a contractual arrangement with a supplier.
* Lights and Indicators If there is no second person to check the outside lights, drive the bus to where they can be seen in reflection in a window. (Malcolm Maylin uses the school greenhouse) * Horn * Seatbelts Look at every one, checking for kinks, twists and frayed edges. and make sure they run smoothly. Then fasten each one so that a child has to go through the routine of first unfastening it and then putting it on.
* Wipers Wiper fluid * Mirrors The nearside mirror is difficult to adjust from the driving seat. Do it the other way, from the outside - stand by the nearside rear of the vehicle and look for the driving seat in the mirror.
* Door locks Do not forget the catch that holds the sliding door open. If the door is not held open, it can be dangerous for children boarding.
Malcolm Maylin recommends also that any passenger windows which are covered by the sliding door should be permanently locked closed: "Because if someone puts a hand out as the sliding door is opened, their hand can be guillotined. "
* Battery * wateranti-freeze * Oil level * Brake fluid Malcolm Maylin says, "If, for example, the water needs a small topping up, make a note of it. If it needs the same the following week, then there may be a problem."
In addition, the person in charge should drive the bus at each check, feeling the steering and brakes and noticing any changes. Added to this could be checks to make sure that the fire extinguisher and first aid kit have not been tampered with. These are mandatory on vehicles first used after April 1, 1988 and common sense items on others.