Sat | Aug 13, 2022

Farm workers riding on air

Published:Sunday | March 6, 2022 | 12:06 AMBy Christopher Serju - Senior Auto Writer -

Ricardo Nelson was like a proud father doting over a child recently as he repeatedly advised the farm workers coming to sit in one of the two spanking new 55-seater coaches that he was not yet ready to load as they prepared to head off to the Norman Manley International Airport to leave for Canada, from where they will return in September.

The buses, which were idling at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Overseas Employment Centre at 110-114 East Street, Kingston, cost just over $57 million and were purchased from contributions collected by workers of the Overseas Employment Programme, 16,000 of whom went to Canada and the United States of America last year on the seasonal agriculture ‘farm work’ programme.

Earlier this month, Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda charged the farm workers to care the vehicles.

“As you leave, remember, these are your vehicles. Take good care of them. Ensure that no drink, knives, or other sharp implements are taken on to the buses and no one causes any damage to them.”

For his part, Nelson was strict in directing the farm workers that not even the smallest of bags would be allowed inside the bus and should instead be stored inside their luggage, which was packed in the relevant compartment under the vehicle.

The buses, which were built in China, were delivered last year and customised with all the creature comforts one could imagine, and Nelson was proud to share this information with Automotives. They were also decorated with signage that makes it very clear that they are the property of the Ministry of Labour and Social Services.

Fitted with a Cummins engine, Nelson explained that his vehicle, like the other, has a full air-conditioning system in addition to a full fire-suppression system, an air-filtration system, an infotainment package, and a camera system. There are three screens, with the largest one at the forward section of the bus and the other two drop-down screens positioned in the centre and back of the vehicle. The screens will be used to loop information about the ministry’s ongoing programmes.

“We also have an air-filtration system because of COVID-19, so we asked the manufacturer to add that system to mitigate against the spread of the virus. We had the option to tell them what we wanted, and they have delivered,” he proudly told Automotives.

And speaking with Automotives the day after he had taken his passengers to the airport, Nelson said that his passengers were elated with their new ride.

“They were comfortable,and the buses are a welcome addition to the fleet. These are fitted with a full air-ride suspension system, so you are actually riding on air bags compared to the traditional vehicle where you feel it every time you hit a bump or drive into a rut, but now we don’t feel those.”

These buses, which are over 4 feet in length are a marked improvement to the fleet, which comprised two 2012 International school buses and a 1996 International school bus, and Nelson, who has been driving professionally since 1996, is enjoying the ride of his life.