September 16, 2014

Elyria
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Measuring bus safety


Highway Patrol makes sure buses are safe before school starts

When your child steps on the school bus each morning, is that bus safe ?

The Ohio Highway Patrol aims to make certain it is — conducting rigorous inspections on each and every bus in a district’s fleet, Sgt. Toby Smith said. Normally, the inspections are done in the summer.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE
Mechanic Sean Wright works on a bus at the Midview bus garage.

“They go over these buses with a fine-toothed comb,” Smith said. “My kids ride on those buses, too.”

The inspections this year turned up a brake hose that was sliced after it rubbed on a frame on a First Student Inc. bus serving Elyria Schools, according to an inspection report.

The hose was repaired the same day, but the violation was serious, said Lt. Edward Stevenson of the Ohio Highway Patrol.

“Anytime there’s a cut — these are air brakes — there’s a potential for brake failure,” Stevenson said.

Overall, 20 of the 59 First Student buses in Elyria needed repairs before they could hit the road, according to the patrol.

The highest percentage of buses taken out of service was in the Midview school district, where about two-thirds of the buses needed repairs before they could hit the road, according to inspection reports.

In Lorain County, the districts with the fewest serious violations include Avon Lake, where just one of 25 buses had a problem that took the bus out of service, and the Firelands school district, where two of 25 buses had problems that temporarily sidelined them.

The district with the most sidelined buses was Lorain, where 60 of 134 buses had problems that needed to be fixed before they could get back on the road.

Local representatives of First Student referred questions to Jennifer Robinson, spokeswoman for its parent company, FirstGroup America, which did not return phone calls Wednesday.

The patrol takes no punitive action regarding the bus inspections, according to Smith.

“The only discipline — if you want to call it discipline — is we wouldn’t pass it for inspection,” Smith said.

If people had to pass similar inspections with their own cars, there wouldn’t be many vehicles on the road, said Sue Anielski, transportation coordinator for the Midview Schools.

Anielski said the violations in Midview “were all very minor.”

“When they (inspectors) left, they were all very happy and satisfied,” she said.

The one problem in Avon Lake involved a muffler leak, which was fixed the same day.

Superintendent Bob Scott said the district’s good inspection results are the result of “two very dedicated mechanics who work on our buses.”

Most Avon Lake buses are stored in bus sheds, which protect them from rain and help extend their usable life, he said.

“We have buses that have 200,000 miles on them and still have their original muffler,” Scott said.

Many districts have their own bus crews, but others contract out for maintenance.

Some districts that contract for bus maintenance did very well, including Wellington, which contracts with M&R Trucking. Wellington had just one bus that needed repairs before it could be driven, according to patrol records.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.