THE chief of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Northern Mindanao told school bus owners who operate without franchises that the agency will not hesitate to impound school transport service vehicles found lacking the necessary permits.

“Don’t wait for us to impound your vehicles,” LTFRB-Northern Mindanao Chief Transport Development Officer Allan Guro warned operators of illegal school transport service vehicles, known locally as school buses.

Guro said the LTFRB, together with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), will launch a joint operation to target “colorums” or school buses without Certificates of Public Convenience (CPC) or franchises issued by the LTFRB.

If found without a CPC, operators will be fined P200,000 and the vehicle will be impounded for three months.

Since June 3 of last year, LTFRB-Northern Mindanao has been reminding schools to ensure the school transport services operated by their institutions or by private individuals have valid CPCs.

Guro said vehicles used as school buses must meet the requirements set by the LTFRB as these standards were crafted with the safety of passengers in mind which, in this case, are usually children.

Guro said for operators seeking new franchises, “they must use vehicles which are not more than three years old, or those with model years from 2012 up.”

But he clarified that those with unexpired franchises may still use their 10- to 15-year-old vehicles.

Each franchise is valid for five years and can be renewed twice.

But safety guidelines must be observed at all times. These include seat belts, a fire extinguisher, sign boards (stop and go), grilled windows, a first aid kit, and a conductor/conductress to guide the students.

School buses must also prominently display valid Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or School Certification/Endorsement letters authorizing the use of the vehicles, the schools’ names and corresponding addresses, school contact persons with contact details, and LTFRB case numbers.

School buses must also have familiar markings -- diagonal black and yellow lines at the sides and back, as well as the name of the school and its address.

“School buses with permits usually have markings,” Guro said.

“If you see one without markings, that is a colorum,” he said.

Guro said only van-type vehicles are allowed to be used as school buses such as Mitsubishi L300s, Nissan Urvans, Toyota Hi-Aces, or their equivalents.

“Multicabs and Jeepneys are not allowed,” Guro said.

But Guro said standard fare rates for school buses aren’t applicable as fares are not regulated by the LTFRB.

“It is a contract between the parents or PTAs on the one hand and school bus operators on the other,” he said.

Parents can pay operators in bulk or on a monthly or daily basis, Guro said.