School bus inspections in your community

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A follow-up now to a story you first saw on 22News Friday.

The 22News I-Team found a number of school buses will fail inspection but be back on the road only a few minutes later. The I-Team wanted to find out why.

You put your kids on the school bus each morning but have you ever thought about how safe they really are?

“I’m a little worried because I remember riding school buses and knowing some of them weren’t as safe as they could’ve been,” said Natalie Hersh of Chicopee.

The I-Team wanted to find out how well the buses are maintained, so we got school bus inspection reports for Springfield, Greenfield, Northampton, West Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee. We looked at three inspections for 534 buses and the results may surprise you.

We discovered, of the more than 1,500 inspections in 2013, hundreds of them had some kind of repair notation. 26 buses actually failed their inspection, but we were surprised to find only 8 of them had been taken off the road.

Some significant findings include problems with steering, brake failure, and unlatched or unsecured seat cushions. To find out why these buses stay on the road, the I-Team went to a bus inspection in Southwick to get answers.

School buses are inspected like this three times a year. MassDOT school bus program manager Margaret Rohanna oversees many of them so we asked her some questions.

(Why would a bus that fails, be back on the road?) – “Well what happens is the bus fails, we have a mechanic on site who makes the repair, he reinspects the vehicle and it passes. That’s called a same-day repair,” Rohanna said.

Rohanna explained a mechanic frequently make repairs right away which allows the bus to go right back on the road, in fact at this inspection, the bus failed, but was repaired and cleared to go before we left.

The I-Team also found 242 buses have more than 100,000 miles on them. More than a dozen had more than 150,000 miles, but that’s something Rohanna says is the school districts choice.

“Some people like older buses because they’re paid for and cost-effective and they are proactive on their maintenance and they’re safe,” Rohanna added.

Next to failures, some buses have “defects” which can be as minor as a rip in a seat or something missing from a first aid kit.

Registrar of Motor Vehicles Celia Blue assured us no bus will carry children until it’s safe, and she says they find shortcomings in their inspections because they’re thorough.

“From the lighting to the insides of the tires, to going underneath, making sure the lines, there are no break issues, you know we try to make sure that we do a thorough job,” Blue said.

Below is Information provided by the MassDOT Press Secretary:

Search the database for the year of 2013 for the following school districts: Springfield, Greenfield, Northampton, West Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee.

It will indicate if a bus has passed or failed inspection and if the bus was taken ‘out of service’. Out of service indicates the most severe defect.

When a school bus fails inspection it means that the bus cannot carry students. The vehicle could still be driven to a repair shop or to another company and before it could transport students again it would have to be reinspected and pass the school bus inspection.

When a school bus is ‘out of service’ it means the vehicle has a serious defect and cannot be driven till the defect is repaired. Typically an orange OUT-OF-SERVICE decal is applied to the left side of the windshield.


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