Every morning these people take the nations children from their homes and transport them to their destined nurseries, primary and secondary schools, and even tertiary level institutes. Who are they? They are the drivers of the Private School Transport Association of Trinidad & Tobago (PSTATT). Based in Phase One of the Malabar Housing Settlement, the group comprises a 13-member executive and more than 800 members across both islands. While this figure is in no way a true representation of the vast number of private citizens that transport school children on a daily basis, the group is still proud of its growing membership.
President of PSTATT, George La Vende, outlined the the main functions of the non-profit organistion.
"We provide transport from the children's home to the school gate; we carry them on time and unharmed; we provide a level of comfort to the child and parent; one mode of transport; it saves the child from any form of crime on their journey; increase productivity in the work place as parents have more time on their hands; and the driver acts as a liaison." The group has been in existence for 16 years, but has only been formally registered for two years. Since its registration, the team has been seeking new and amended legislations to ensure that all parties involved are comfortable. One such amendment is focused on the Motor Vehicle and Road traffic Act, Chap 48.50, Section 4 (1) (a) in section 2 (i) & (ii), seeking to ensure that the organisation's operations are in-keeping with the laws of T&T.
"We are waiting on Minister Jack Warner to carry the Bill to Parliament so that further amendments can be made. With this drivers will then be able to ply their trade without the issuance of traffic tickets," he said. He said while most police officers were sympathetic towards the drivers, others were not as understanding. "Those police officers who are issuing tickets have stated that until the law is amended, the transportation system is still illegal," La Vende said. But while all these details are being sorted out, members of the association are further preparing themselves to serve the nation.
The laws of the PSTATT constitution mandate that drivers who wish to join the association must:
Be at least 25 years of age;
Have a police certificate of good character;
Pass a defensive driving test;
Pass a first aid course;
Have their vehicle that is registered to transport children painted in yellow;
Comply with the rules and regulations as stated by law.
While many of the buses are still white, the association is on a drive to have all members change the colour to yellow by August. Drivers will be asked to have a standardised dress code, with the option of T-shirts with the association's logo printed on them. The association is also considering the viability of a tariff for its members. PSTATT members already have discount cards that entitle them to 15 per cent discounts at some businesses, and Bankers Insurance Ltd has already signed with the group to handle all of it's insurance needs.