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State inspections keep unsafe school buses off the roads as kids return to class

Posted: 10:44 PM, Aug 29, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-30 18:05:26-04

7 Action News wanted to know: Is your child’s school doing a good job of making sure your little one's school bus is safe?

We know that Michigan State Police inspect buses. So, we turned to them for answers.  We discovered that police found more than 12% of buses inspected in Michigan unsafe.

This is the report. You can see what districts got yellow tagged buses, meaning they had minor issues per police or red tagged buses which were pulled off the road until repairs were made.

It says between September and May of last year police inspected 11,329 buses.

“School bus safety is a top priority,” said Sgt. Michael McLaughlin, who is in charge of MSP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.

Of those buses inspected, 1,458 were is such bad shape police gave school districts an order.

“The bus cannot be used for pupil transportation,” said McLaughlin.

Districts were ordered to make repairs and have the bus re-inspected before use.

Taking a look at some of the school districts with the highest failed inspection rates in metro-Detroit, they include Pontiac City School District, Huron Valley Schools, Waterford School District, Holly Area Schools, Romulus Community Schools, Gibraltar School District, and Wayne-Westland Community School District.

They all had between 14% and 32% of their buses failed.

The reasons vary from budget issues to new staff to aging bus fleets to bad roads in a large district.

Huron Valley Schools Communications Director Kim Root says that, while the district had some issues last year, all buses taken off the road were repaired and passed re-inspection.

“The bus that picks your child up or drops them off on the first day of school is good to go,” said Root.

But there is a way to prevent failing inspections.

“It is a big deal if a bus fails. It shows that, perhaps, they weren’t really paying attention,” said Diane Holden who is the Bloomfield Hills Schools Transportation Supervisor.

The district has a 24-year-old perfect record for bus inspections.

Bloomfield Hills Schools Head Mechanic Rich Hella says Michigan State Police often bring buses ordered off the road to his garage for re-inspection after other districts make repairs to their buses.

“You see holes where they shouldn’t be and stuff just literally falling off buses,” said Hella.

So how does it get to this?

He says he believes you need experienced mechanics, an airtight inspection process, and communication.

“This all comes down to money,” said Hella. “It takes a lot of money to keep a fleet running down the road.”

There is a trend within Michigan State Police statistics. The best funded districts are less likely to have issues.

Michigan State Police say parents can be watchdogs. If you want to know about the inspection of your child’s bus, scan the QR code on your child’s bus door.  It will provide information on the bus.  It will also provide contact information should you want to report a concern about the bus’ condition.

7 Action News is committed to covering issues that impact your children’s education.  If you have a story we should cover e-mail us at fixmyschool@wxyz.com .