36 Don Mariano buses fail roadworthiness tests

Broken headlights and windshields, defective wipers and signal lights. These are among the deficiencies found in buses owned by Don Mariano Transit Corp by the Land Transportation Office in an inspection on Tuesday, a day after a horrific crash of one of its buses on the Skyway.

Thirty-six out of the 42 buses of the company that were tested failed roadworthiness tests, GMA News Online learned from the LTO.

The bus that fell from the Skyway on Monday had visibly bald tires. The crash killed 18 and injured 16.

Engr. Joel Donato, head of the LTO-Motor Vehicle Inspection section that conducted the tests, told GMA News Online that only six Don Mariano buses passed the tests conducted at the LTO’s North Motor Vehicle Inspection Center in Quezon City.

Donato said LTO regulators hope to finish administering roadworthiness tests to the remaining 35 buses owned by Don Mariano on Wednesday.

A “24 Oras” report said some of the defects discovered by the LTO inspectors were broken headlights and windshields, defective wipers and signal lights, and worn-out seatbelts.



Bald tires

Based on the initial investigation conducted by members of the police's Highway Patrol Group, the Don Mariano bus involved in Monday's deadly accident had bald tires.

In a televised interview, however, lawyer Jason Cantil, legal counsel for the Don Mariano Transit, said the bus' bald tires were an exception.

“Nataon lang po siguro na hindi na-check 'yung gulong na nasa picture. Maayos naman po 'yung mga ibang buses namin,” Cantil said.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has ordered the suspension of Don Mariano Transit Corp.’s entire 77-unit fleet following the crash.

It also ordered the company’s drivers to undergo mandatory drug testing and road safety seminars.

Franchise faces cancellation

LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez said an initial record check showed one of Don Mariano's seven franchises may be canceled after the units under it were involved in three violations, including last Monday's tragedy.

That particular franchise covers 21 units of Don Mariano, he said.

The LTFRB has set the hearing of Don Mariano Transit Corp.’s latest case on January 7, 2014.

Donato said the company has until that date to fix the defects found in its buses before each unit can be given a certificate of compliance. After this, the buses will be subject to another round of tests to ensure they are worthy to hit the road.

Helping victims

In a television report aired on “Quick Response Team,” Cantil said the company is currently focused on extending assistance to the victims and their families.

“[Ang focus namin ay] more on how to help the victim[s] rather than doon po sa suspension namin. ‘Yan po ang immediate concern namin. ‘Yung drive po ng Don Mariano ngayon, kung paano matutulungan yung mga nabiktima,” he said.

Based on the LTO’s inspection, Donato said while none of Don Mariano's buses were too decrepit to be on the streets, most of its buses were poorly maintained.

“Bago-bago pa ang mga bus nila (Don Mariano). Walang over 15 years old. Pero hindi name-mentain nang maayos yung mga units at hindi rin naiinspeksyon regularly ng mismong company,” he said.

Donato said the LTO conducts a mandatory inspection of buses once a year when bus companies apply for registration.

After this, inspections are only carried out by the agency in the companies’ own garages before peak seasons for bus commuters during Holy Week, school semestral breaks,

All Saints Day,and Christmas Day.

“In between doon sa mga inspection [dates] na iyon, responsibilidad na ng kumpanya na inspeksyunin at i-maintain yung kanilang fleet,” he said. — KBK/HS, GMA News

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