Aiga bus owners not happy, 1988 law to be enforced
Aiga bus owners and operators have voiced their concerns over the Commerce Commission and Department of Public Safety's move to start enforcement in January next year a 1988 law that requires drivers of aiga buses to wear seat belts.
The concerns and opposition were raised yesterday during a meeting of all parties to discuss this and other issues pertaining to commercial vehicles in the territory.
Commerce Commission's legal counsel Sean Morrison told Samoa News that the Commission - which regulates commercial vehicles in the territory - has taken note of all of the comments and suggestions received and will review them with DPS. "We will probably do more outreach with DPS on this issue," Morrison said yesterday afternoon. "But it's still our intention to start enforcing this law in January."
He said the meeting was to "try to give everyone a ‘heads up' " on the enforcement of the law, that actually went into effect in 1988.
Some of the owners and operators who attended the meeting included current lawmaker Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi and former lawmakers Vaiausia E. Yandall and Fa'alae Tunupopo.
Morrison explained during the meeting that this law is the result of a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which provides federal funding for local highway safety programs - and American Samoa needs to comply with the law, which is both federal and local.
Owners and operators say that there will be a lot of complaints when the government enforces this law because it's difficult to put a seat belt on the type of buses used in American Samoa due to the way the buses are built.
One individual, who has constructed local buses in the territory for three decades says when these types of vehicles are brought into the territory, all major sections of the vehicle are removed, making it difficult to install any seat belts.
Another operator says this law should take into consideration that the majority of aiga buses in the territory are constructed locally and therefore the law should cater to how the buses are constructed.
Recommendations from owners and operators include having the government work with the Legislature to amend the law, so that bus drivers won't need to wear seat belts.
Another recommendation is to set this requirement to be effective in January for any new buses, but give the current buses more time to abide by this regulation, by way of a timeline.
Samoa News reporters Ausage Fausia and Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.