While new minibuses will be required to have seat belts from August, it could take up to a decade before they are fitted in all of them. Transport Department officials said minibus operators would not be forced to equip existing vehicles with seat belts in order to comply with new legislation, but would be permitted to wait until they ordered new buses to replace their old ones. 'New buses that are registered with the department from August 1 are required to have seat belts fitted to every seat,' one official said. 'That will give the operators a chance to change over gradually over time as older vehicles are retired at the end of their useable life.' But because minibuses typically have an eight to 10-year life span, 'it will take a long time before all of Hong Kong's 4,300 minibuses are fitted with seat belts', the official admitted. The chairman of the GMB Maxicab Operators General Association, Hiew Moo-siew, said minibus operators generally agreed with the requirement for seat belts, although it would be up to passengers to respect the law and buckle up on their own initiative. Mr Hiew said it should not take 10 years before all minibuses have seat belts because there was quite a high turnover of vehicles. 'I think that maybe within two to three years, most minibuses will have seat belts,' he said. Mr Hiew said more minibus owners were rushing to take advantage of government incentives to change to more environmentally friendly liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) models. This had given operators $60,000 credit against the purchase of new LPG vehicles, which cost about $400,000 for a Toyota, Mr Hiew said. The incentive is due to finish at the end of the year. But Chan Man-jun, a director of the Hong Kong Scheduled (GMB) Licensee Association, said that at the moment Toyota was not offering a seat-belt version of the Coaster LPG, the most common minibus in Hong Kong. 'The Coaster is the most popular model, but Toyota told us recently that they will not be able to offer this model with seat belts until November,' Mr Chan said. 'So that is an inconvenience to minibus operators who have an immediate need to change their vehicles. Between August and November, no one will be able to register a new minibus.' Under the Road Traffic (Safety Equipment) Regulations, passengers who fail to buckle up while travelling on minibuses fitted with seat belts face a maximum fine of $5,000 and three months' jail. A spokesman for the Transport Department said that although drivers had no legal liability under the new rule, they were urged to remind passengers to buckle up if their minibuses were fitted with seat belts.