Chad Bryan, Gleaner Writer
A large number of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company's (JUTC) white buses, which symbolised the company's initial fleet, have either been retired or are now heading for a permanent parking spot as they have passed their prime and are no longer economically viable.
Buses such as the Mercedes-Benz and VDL Jonckeere (MANN) units normally seen plying the 42, 52, 53 and 54 routes, along with a few other Volvo buses along other routes, have been phased out. Some units are still in service, but not for the general public. They serve as transport for JUTC maintenance workers servicing other buses, as well as for shuttling the staff.
According to Corporate Communications Manager of the JUTC, Reginald Allen, "Most of the smaller buses are pretty much out of the system. You may find an odd one here and there and these will be used as service buses. That is to say, the mechanics use them to go around and they might be used to carry some staff here and there".
He continued: "There have been many different types of buses over time and based on performance and longevity... in other words, buses last up to a certain time and must eventually be retired."
Allen further explained that the absence of these buses on the road is tied to their reliability. When they are no longer up to standard they will hardly be seen in active service in large numbers.
The Mercedes-Benz buses and a few others are no longer in the JUTC's system as they fell into disrepair, making it uneconomical for them to be returned to active service. Allen also mentioned that even newer air-conditioned buses have proven to be unreliable and some are no longer in active service.
Currently, the JUTC's fleet is down to five types of various buses in a bid to standardise the system, which allows for an easier process when purchasing parts. According to Allen, "By and large, we have standardised the fleet so that you have the typical yellow and white buses of the same model so that parts are easier to come by".
Allen also said that between April and May, 19 new buses are expected in the island for the JUTC's fleet, with 15 being the regular and articulated models while the other four will be for the disabled.