BUSK's Safe Transport of Children Conference in April 2014 was hosted by Arval UK in Swindon. Among those present was journalist Fiona Scott. On day one she gave an excellent presentation about how the media works and stunned delegates when she explained how a really bad road traffic collision continue to be in the news for years to come. She gave expert advice on how to make sure we all know how to handle the media. During the two day conference Fiona made notes as you would expect a good journalist to do and this is just one of her accounts of a presentation given by coach driver Marc Skinner that she has kindly allowed BUSK to use.
COACH DRIVER APPEALS TO PARENTS ABOUT DRIVER SAFETY ON FOREIGN SCHOOL TRIPS
BY FIONA SCOTT
One other powerful speaker at the road safety conference was coach driver Marc Skinner.
Marc took two days’ holiday from his job to attend the conference as he felt it was important to speak out about the conditions faced by coach drivers who transport teachers and children on longer school trips in the UK and overseas.
“Sometimes, we have to drive for up to 21 hours on a school trip, with another driver, and when we get to the other end, we find we have to share a room, sometimes these rooms are small, one bed could be a sofa and we may have to share bathroom facilities with children. Is that appropriate? How are we going to be properly rested for an overnight drive home if we have had no sleep because of inadequate accommodation.”
Marc spoke of trips, particularly skiing trips, where he has had to share with drivers who are complete strangers, sometimes men and women having to share rooms when they don’t know each other and are not partners.
“I’m appealing to parents to think of the man or woman at the front of the bus. Are we ‘just the driver’? Or are we the most important person on that bus? We need to be properly rested and to have our own privacy when away on trips.
“We’d like parents to be aware of some of the conditions we have to face. Would they mind paying a little extra, maybe as little as £10, to ensure that we are able to be rested before we bring their children home to them.”
When a school arranges a trip overseas, sometimes in the UK, they can use a tour operator who then book a coach company with all trying to keep costs to a minimum. The driver can be the least important part of the overall equation.
“If parents start asking questions about the driver and his or her accommodation at an early stage, it will help get the message out there that we are important for the safety of the children on that coach and we need to be treated reasonably.”
He played a recording of the snoring of a fellow bus driver in a room which was shared. He talked of having to sleep in a chair in a hotel lobby for two nights on another occasion where his room mate snored so loudly he couldn’t get to sleep.
“When I go away and have to share a room with another driver I give him, or her, ear plugs as I know that I snore. I do it out of respect for that person, but not every driver is like me.”
Marc is part of a campaign called Nightcap, supported by Busk, which is trying to encourage parents, schools, coach companies and tour operators to think about the coach drivers and provide them with clean, quiet and private, single rooms when they are away from home.
Busk is an organisation established 21 years ago which promotes safe child school transport and is known for its campaigning work. It was integral to the introduction of seat belts on coaches.
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