A school bus driver has been struck off after driving with seven children in the luggage compartment in what he admitted was a ‚Äúmoment of madness‚ÄĚ.
Richard Andrew Short, from Yate, will no longer be allowed to drive school buses for the next 10 years after his passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) driving licence was revoked by the Traffic Commissioner.
CCTV footage showed the driver, who has more than 18 years experience, laughing and smiling when he let the secondary school children into the luggage compartment before going on the school run.
On June 12, he was taking children between St Gregory‚Äôs Catholic College in Bath and Keynsham on his regular school run, which he had done for the last few months.
On the morning run, he allowed a child to enter the luggage compartment and drove around for about a minute and a half, CCTV footage showed.
That afternoon, he let seven children climb into the luggage compartment, and drove for three minutes before letting them out.
The panel was also told Mr Short allowed children to stand alongside him while he was driving, and that he appeared to be relaxed, laughing and smiling.
He told the panel the children were ‚Äúvery demanding‚ÄĚ and that they saw it as ‚Äúwind the driver up day‚ÄĚ.
‚ÄúMr Short referred to one child as the ‘ringleader’ who had wanted to travel in the luggage compartment. He had been continually pestered by this ringleader,‚ÄĚ the traffic commisioner‚Äôs report read.
He decided to give in and allowed the ‚Äėringleader‚Äô to travel in the lockers in what he admitted was ‚Äúa moment of madness‚ÄĚ.
Word got round and other children pestered him to let them do so, and Mr Short said the ‚Äėringleader‚Äô was swearing and shouting at him.
At the time of the incident, the driver said he had been suffering from stress in his personal life, with his mum being very ill.
He had asked for time off, but this was refused by his company, the South Gloucestershire Bus and Coach Limited, due to a shortage of drivers.
The firm admitted they had been aware of Mr Short‚Äôs problems.
In his report, commissioner Kevin Rooney wrote: ‚ÄúMr Short told me that he knew he had been stupid. He wasn‚Äôt a bad person.
‚ÄúHe had asked for time off. He had asked to be taken off that route. His employer and he himself had spoken to the school about the pupils‚Äô behaviour.
‚ÄúHe had to stop the coach several times to try to regain control. The children thought it was all a joke.‚ÄĚ
Mr Short, who was an experienced bus driver, had started his career with First Bus before moving to other operators and finally South Gloucestershire Bus and Coach Limited.
Mr Rooney said despite Mr Short‚Äôs reasons, he had endangered the safety of the children taking the bus.
‚ÄúParents entrust the safety of their children to the bus and coach drivers who take them to and from school. Driving a bus or coach is a professional occupation and requires much more than just being the steersman,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúChildren should wear seatbelts and be seated in properly constructed seats when travelling, even for relatively short periods.
‚ÄúI do not underestimate how difficult that can be at times for drivers but there is always an option simply to stop.
‚ÄúChildren have to be kept under control. The school and parents have very important roles in that but it is only the driver who can take the direct action at the time when children are getting out of hand ‚Äď as at least a few very clearly were on that journey.‚ÄĚ
He said if there had been an accident or fire, emergency services would not be able to spot the children in the luggage department.
Mr Short‚Äôs actions were described as ‚Äúhighly reckless‚ÄĚ and he had repeated his mistake the same afternoon.
He has since been sacked by the company and told he can no longer drive PCV for the next 10 years.