School bus scheme to earn parents' trust
Operators must get insurance bond and meet criteria like minimum training time for drivers for CaseTrust-SSTA accreditation
A new accreditation scheme for school bus service providers has been launched to give parents who prepay bus fees peace of mind.
Bus operators on the scheme must purchase a $300,000 insurance bond to insure consumers' deposits and prepayments against the winding up of operations or liquidation of the bus service provider.
Each applicant must be a member of the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) to be eligible to apply for the scheme.
An initiative jointly worked on by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the SSTA, known as the CaseTrust-SSTA joint accreditation scheme, was first mooted in 2015 after the abrupt termination of services by a school bus operator that year.
Parents who had made advanced payments of up to two months were unable to get a refund over the incident.
The launch of the CaseTrust-SSTA accreditation scheme yesterday signifies the determination of the school transport industry to provide better services and support for consumers, said Mr Wong Ann Lin, the SSTA executive council chairman.
About 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the students in each school take a school bus.
He told The New Paper: "We hope more bus operators will join the scheme so parents have peace of mind."
From January 2014 to August this year, Case received 22 complaints involving school bus transport services, said its spokesman.
The complaints were over requests such as refunds after bus services were terminated, or other issues like unsatisfactory services and increases in price.
Collating information from the complaints received, the SSTA believes consumers prepaid between $80 and $1,600 for school bus transport services, depending on the contractual period signed.
Parents today are a little paranoid, so it is better to have something like that to give them assurance (about prepayments).Rae Transport Services managing director Kelvin Tan
There are more than 900 members of the SSTA, and 22 of them - including Rae Transport Services and Ren Quan Transport - are in the process of being accredited.
Collectively, SSTA members offer bus services to more than half the primary schools here.
Aside from buying an insurance bond, bus operators accredited under the new scheme must commit to other criteria, like adopting ethical and transparent pricing tactics and providing proper dispute resolution procedures.
Drivers from these bus operators also need to go through at least 40 hours of training to meet "satisfactory service standards".
Upon successful accreditation, the CaseTrust accreditation mark will be valid for four years.
Rae Transport Services managing director Kelvin Tan welcomed the introduction of the accreditation scheme.
He told TNP: "Parents today are a little paranoid, so it is better to have something like that to give them assurance (about prepayments).
"As bus operators, we also need some form of assurance from parents by having them prepay to reserve a seat."
He added that being one of the pioneers on the accreditation scheme will give him a competitive edge too.
Mr Jason Loh, who runs Ren Quan Transport, said the scheme will also set the tone and provide guidelines for the bus service industry.
"As of now, there isn't really any one standard policy for everyone to follow," he said.