Detroit school buses 44% unsafe last year, doing better with private operators

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It turns out there was a good reason for privatizing the busing operation for the Detroit Public Schools. During the last year before the city turned over transportation responsibilities to private operators, over 44% of the 400 buses were red-tagged by inspectors, meaning that they were unsafe to operate.

The new independent operators have done much better according to their first report cards. First Student, of Cincinnati, had 17.6 percent of its fleet red-tagged, ABC Transportation had less than 2% red-tagged and Safeway Transportation had no violations on any of their buses. Overall, the independent companies received red tags on about 10% of their buses.

Statewide in Michigan, 89.8 percent of its 16,311 buses passed a 198-point inspection, a figure consistent with recent years. Detroit’s figures show just how poorly the city managed the busing operation while under its control.

Moving forward, the focus will be on maintaining the effectiveness of the inspection process, since budget cuts at the state level have substantially reduced inspector count from nine full-time and two part-time, to the equivalent of 4.5 full time employees. In order to flag the greatest number of unsafe buses, inspectors will focus their efforts on districts that have had a history of problems in the past.

If an inspection shows violations and the vehicles are otherwise considered safe, inspectors generally yellow-tag the bus and give the operator 60 days to make repairs. If violations are of the nature that renders the bus unsafe, then it is red-tagged and repairs must be completed before it can return to service.

Addressing the issues of unsafe buses in the past, Detroit Public School spokesman Steven Wasko said “We take the issue of student safety as our highest priority. At no point did any school bus roll that was unfit or unsafe to do so. Our transportation providers worked to correct each item discovered during the inspections, and we will review again all of these reports with the service providers to ensure that they remain in compliance.”

The Detroit News

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