All Small Buses in Singapore to Have Seat Belts

News Releases 16 Oct 2008 seat belts

1. Minister for Transport Raymond Lim announced on 17 May 2008 that all new small buses1 must be installed with seat belts, and LTA would study if the same need to be imposed on existing buses, and if so, how best to implement seat belts effectively.

2. With effect from 1 April 2009, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will require all newly registered small buses to be installed with forward-facing seats that have retractable three-point seat belts. Existing small buses carrying school children will be required to have seats that are forward-facing, and installed with three-point seatbelts within three years (i.e. by 31 December 2011). All other existing small buses will be given up to five years to comply (i.e. by 31 December 2013).

Consultant's Recommendations

3. In addition to its own studies on seatbelts, the LTA engaged international consultants and safety experts, Hall and Associates LLC Washington DC, to conduct a study. Findings from the Consultant showed that small buses pose the most serious bus safety challenge in Singapore. The Consultant has recommended, inter alia, that all passenger seats be required to have integral three-point seat belts with retractors and be forward-facing. This would enhance the safety of passengers carried in small buses.

4. The LTA has accepted the Consultant's recommendations. The executive summary of the Consultant's report and the explanation on their recommendations are provided at Annex A and Annex B respectively.

Consultation with Stakeholders

5. The implementation programme was finalised after consultation with key stakeholders including schools, childcare centres, parents as well as school bus operators and associations, the Motor Traders Association, the Automobile Importer and Exporter Association, and bus bodybuilders.

6. Mr Michael Wong, Vice-President of the Motor Traders Association (MTA) said, "Our members are comfortable with the implementation schedule. MTA will work closely with the LTA and bus operators to ensure smooth transition to the new requirements."

7. Mr Wong Ann Lin, Chairman, Singapore School Transport Association, added, "We understand the need for safety to come first and with our constant consultations with LTA, we believe that this new requirement is achievable. We look forward to working with parents and schools in helping children wear seatbelts once installed."

Retrofitting Existing Buses

8. Some 6,400 existing small buses, of which 1,200 are known to carry school children, will be retrofitted with three-point seat belts. To enhance the safety of school children, priority will be given to existing small buses carrying school children (referred to as 'school buses'), to comply with the new requirements, by end 2011. Existing small buses which are used for other purposes have up to end 2013 to comply.

9. Mr Jim Hall, Managing Director, Hall & Associates LLC2 said, "In general, Singapore has a very safe transportation system. Our analysis of bus safety around the world, however, indicates that several improvements could provide an extra measure of safety for Singapore's bus riders. The LTA's decision to require that small buses be equipped with seatbelts is an important step towards developing a transportation system with world-class safety standards. When installed and worn properly, three-point integral seat belts can significantly reduce the risk of injury or death for bus passengers of all ages."

10. As the number of small buses which require retrofitting is not insignificant, LTA is mindful of the need to phase in the retrofitting so as to minimise disruption to existing operations. For school buses, the LTA also took into account practical considerations such as the restriction of the retrofitting works to only during school holidays. This is to avoid disruption to students during their school term period and to lessen operational downtime for bus operators. The existing fleet of school buses will see a drop in capacity once their seats are retrofitted. Hence, school bus operators need adequate time to retrofit their fleet and to make up for the shortfall in capacity.

11. To minimise disruption to the transport of displaced school children, LTA will be working closely through the schools and childcare centres, and with the school bus operators, to schedule existing school buses for seat belt retrofitting within the 3-year period.

12. The LTA will appoint workshops to undertake the retrofitting of seatbelts and authorised vehicle inspection centres to check for compliance with requirements. The appointed workshops will have the necessary equipment, qualified personnel and use seats and seat belts that meet safety standards and specifications. The workshops will also work with a Professional Engineer (PE) on the strengthening of floorboards (if necessary) and seat anchorage design to ensure that seat belts would be effective in the event of an accident. To minimise disruption to business, the LTA is working with the workshops to provide replacement buses, where feasible and necessary, when buses are undergoing retrofitting.

13. LTA's Chief Executive, Mr Yam Ah Mee, said, "We recognise that this is a major retrofitting programme which will impact many stakeholders. Prior to implementation we consulted them, to take on board their views and to assess the impact of implementing seatbelts on small buses. During the retrofitting programme, we will continue to work closely with stakeholders by laying out a suitable schedule programme and to incentivise them to come forward earlier rather than later."

Financial Assistance Packages

14. The Government will provide financial assistance to existing small bus owners to defray the cost of retrofitting seat belts. Assistance will be provided to owners who retrofit their existing buses with seat belts or replace them with a new bus - either a new small bus with seatbelts or a big bus (no seatbelts required). The baseline financial assistance to small bus operators is summarised below:

Baseline Assistance - for owners of existing small buses that retrofit their buses with seat belts or replace them with a new bus

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

16 Oct 08 31 Dec 09

1 Jan 10 31 Dec 10

1 Jan 11 31 Dec 11

1 Jan 12 31 Dec 12

1 Jan 13 31 Dec 13

$4000

$4000

$4000

$4000

$3000


15. School buses scheduled for earlier retrofitting may be affected by the reduction of capacity. Hence, more assistance will be provided to owners whose buses are scheduled for retrofitting earlier. The additional assistance is as shown:

Additional assistance to school bus owners based on retrofitting schedule

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

16 Oct 08 31 Dec 09

1 Jan 10 31 Dec 10

1 Jan 11 31 Dec 11

$3000

$2000

$1000


16. Young children below eight years old will require booster seats to accompany the wearing of 3-point seat belts. Thus, additional assistance will also be provided to operators who ferry such children to schools or childcare centres, as shown:

Additional assistance to school bus owners that ferry children under 8 yrs

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

16 Oct 08 31 Dec 09

1 Jan 10 31 Dec 10

1 Jan 11 31 Dec 11

$1000

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