Police are warning that some bus operators are operating poorly maintained and dangerous vehicles.
An operation to monitor the standard of buses travelling to the Kaikoura Trotting Cup on 3 November revealed mechanical faults in more than a third of the vehicles inspected. Of the 37 buses inspected, six had major faults that stopped them from travelling further, seven had minor faults that will need repair, and another two buses exceeded the maximum weight they were allowed to carry.
"The safety and wellbeing of passengers and other road users is our primary concern, and the faults that we found posed very real risks," says Senior Sergeant Warren Newbury, South Island manager of the Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU), which ran the operation.
"One bus had critical wear on the driveshaft central support bearing. When the centre bearing fails completely, there are a number of possible consequences including the assembly breaking down completely with pieces of metal flying in all directions like shrapnel, or the driveshaft could snap and come up through the floor of the bus," says Newbury.
"A rear suspension support had snapped away from the chassis of another bus, and could be moved around by hand and potentially affecting the stability of the vehicle. One came in leaking diesel fuel all over the road. Other problems seen over the operation included bald tyres, cracked windscreens and overloading," says Newbury.
Inspections at the Glasnevin compliance station, an hour north of Christchurch, take around 10 to 15 minutes to complete for a well maintained bus. Vehicles are electronically weighed as they drive in, and then inspected for vehicle safety, driver and vehicle licensing, and documentation.
"A good bus is on its way again in 15 minutes, and the passengers can enjoy their day," says Newbury. " Six buses were so unsafe we had to prevent them from being driven any further and this required the bus operators to organise alternative transport for their passengers to continue their journey to Kaikoura and some bus operators had replacement vehicles organised within an hour, and the passengers were safely on their way."
Newbury says that the operation conducted at Glasnevin clearly showed that some bus operators need to ensure more attention is paid to ensuring their vehicle are kept up to standard at all times. However on balance, it was very pleasing to see that 22 of the 37 vehicles were up to standard with no issues around compliance or vehicle standards.