CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Channel 9 is asking if the buses students take to school are safe enough to be on the road.
A scathing report uncovered in a Channel 9 investigation shows that a spot check of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ bus fleet indicated that 46 percent of buses inspected were taken out of service for repairs.
This state report details a long list of problems was found with the buses children ride to school every day.
Serious safety concerns were raised 17 months ago after two CMS buses burst into flames.
- Wiring issues contributed to CMS bus fires
- NCDPI alerts all school districts of bus fire risks
- Inspections for fire extinguisher past due across CMS' bus fleet
- Massive bus fire still a mystery; CMS plans to inspect 250 buses
- State inspector investigates how massive school bus fire started
The CMS Transportation Department was heavily scrutinized over maintenance concerns in the aftermath.
The report Channel 9 uncovered Tuesday found that, despite some leadership changes since the fires, problems persist with the CMS bus fleet.
The latest state inspections were in the fall of 2018.
More than 100 CMS buses were randomly inspected, which is about 10 percent of the entire fleet.
CMS buses taken Out of Service:
- 46 percent of regular school buses
- 45 percent of activity buses
CMS said bus safety would be a priority after the fires, but the latest inspection score is 12.5 percent worse than last year.
Overall, CMS scored 31 percent worse than the average school district in North Carolina.
The problems on the latest school buses forced out-of-service range from brake problems to a lack of transmission fluid.
The random inspections also found a fuel line leak.
The state report is also critical of other compliance areas and said improvement is needed with monthly inspections and preventive maintenance.
CMS said it’s using the inspection report to improve.
The school district responded to Channel 9’s questions Tuesday afternoon:
CMS Transportation strives to provide the safest transportation possible for students across Mecklenburg County. Safety is a top priority daily.
CMS picks up and delivers 127,000 students per day and operates 1,088 yellow school buses.
CMS Transportation will use the results of the DPI report as a benchmark for additional training opportunities and the ability to perform proper spot-check inspections for continuous improvement. Many of the areas cited have already been improved.
- All of the buses that were removed from service, (with the exception of three buses) were repaired onsite and returned to service the same day.
- CMS school buses travel 125,000 miles daily, while at the same time our technicians work hard to service those buses in the middle of the day.
- Our total fleet, to include regular running buses, spares buses and activity buses are 1,323, which would equate to about 3 percent of the fleet which were removed from service.
- It is important to put the scores in perspective as you point out. Some smaller districts fleets scored higher than CMS, and some lower. However, CMS operates more school buses and transports more children on yellow school buses than any district in the state of North Carolina.
- This review was conducted two months into the school year (the inspection occurred in October 2018.) Many areas were addressed immediately in October.
- Monthly inspections and preventative maintenance (were) predominantly timeliness in completing and turning in paperwork, all of these areas have been addressed.
- Finally, CMS Transportation strives to maintain a safe fleet of buses. The Transportation Department has partnered with DPI and use this yearly inspection as a way to continuously improve.
The CMS bus technicians observed during the review were given satisfactory scores.
Sources have said in the past there have not been enough technicians on staff.
CMS said a month ago it had a full staff of technicians.
The inspection report specifically mentioned the importance of filling tech positions as soon as they open.
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