Public hearing to discuss aiga bus issues postponed — no one showed up
A meeting scheduled for yesterday at the Fagatogo Marketplace for commercial vehicle owners has been postponed until October 9.
The meeting, according to program coordinator for the Office of Highway Safety (OHS) Fred Scanlan, is to provide a forum for commercial vehicle owners to have their voices heard concerning new rulings that affect, among other things, aiga buses.
The Department of Commerce, the Department of Public Safety, Legal Affairs and OHS are collaborating to inform commercial vehicle owners of the rulings, to make sure they understand them, and to provide enforcement.
Not one commercial vehicle owner was present yesterday, hence the postponement.
“We are giving them another chance to show up and if they choose not to, then they shouldn’t complain when proposed laws that concern them go into effect,” Scanlan said.
Among the concerns is the fact that aiga buses are custom built locally (using the frame of pick up trucks) and nothing could be found in the local law books, specifying exactly how the buses are to be built and what materials (metal or wood) are allowable — or even legal.
Another concern is that the aiga buses are built without proper seat belts for the drivers and when the seat belts are installed, they are nailed on to wood, as opposed to metal like privately owned vehicles.
With the new rulings, all aiga buses will be issued a piece of paper that is to be displayed at the front of the bus, within full view of the passengers.
Currently, Scanlan is working with the chief counsel of the Office of Highway Safety to draft up legislation that addresses the "unique" situation involving local aiga buses.
“Our aiga buses have become a tradition for the territory,” Scanlan said. "We use them for public transportation not only for locals, but also tourists. It has become somewhat a part of our culture and way of life. It isn't our goal to get them off the road. We just want to make sure that they are safe and legal to operate."
According to Scanlan, their research could not reveal any section of the law that addresses any kind of specifications as to how aiga buses should be built.
When asked if police officers are ticketing bus drivers for not wearing seat belts, Scanlan replied affirmatively and added it is hard to cite bus drivers for non-seat belt use when the bus itself shouldn't even be on the road.
The issue is one of those gray areas in the law that officials believe needs to be addressed.