He pointed out that bus drivers and fleet man- agers are often unaware of what has happened to a bus before the start of a route. So, having them conduct their own inspections, instead of relying on the previous drivers, is undoubtedly a best practice and is usually required. Meanwhile, things happen on the road. Com-

ponents wear out. These possibilities make a post-trip inspection equally important. Lastly, adding a verifiable child check procedure to a post-trip inspection ensures that no student is forgotten on the bus. Fakkema said that documenting that all repairs

have been made—a recommendation included in the National School Transportation Spec- ifications and Procedures Manual—remains essential to safety. However, a paper trail is becoming antiquated, he noted. “Digital trails make for more easily traceable

information that can be integrated into main- tenance software and [used as] leverage for additional analytics on bus components,” he explained.

School bus maintenance and inspection expert Marshall Casey, the retired director of transportation maintenance for the South Car- olina Department of Education, makes a strong case for proper, diligent school bus maintenance and inspections. “Every single item on a bus is there for safety. If not, take it off,” he said. “It’s not just the routine brakes, tires, lights and mir- rors to check. Every component, every bolt and screw, must be like new.” Casey added that the main problem he sees

is that maintenance and inspections are not performed often enough. “Inspections really pay off in saving time for schools and the maintenance crew,” he ob- served. “First, do the things that are easy to fix, then do everything else. That’s my policy. It requires a commitment of time.” Casey organizes and leads national school bus inspection training at the STN EXPO Indi- anapolis and Reno conferences each year. The goal is to ensure registered attendees not only

understand basic federal and state inspection requirements but also use that knowledge to create more stringent guidelines in their local operations. “I hear people say, ‘We don’t have time for inspections. I answer, ‘You don’t have time not to inspect your buses,” he stressed. “Obviously, fewer highway failures mean less time in the shop and more time on the road. You don’t want your drivers sitting on the roadside at 5:30 a.m. waiting for a road call. And I’ve noticed that when a driver likes his bus, he treats it better.” He added that South Carolina’s inspection

program, which he helped create, goes well- beyond what is required by DOT and most other states. “With a new program, the first year is difficult, because a lot more parts need to be replaced. But after that phase, everything is improved, and students spend more time in class,” he said.

When he hears bus drivers complain that their

vehicles are “junk,” he often responds that they are correct. “But why is that? Because it’s not maintained properly,” he said. “If a bus is ‘shake, rattle and roll,’ the driver will treat it like junk. Even a new piece of foam can stop a first aid kit from rattling. A tightened screw can hold a window in place. A driver needs to have no dis- tractions on the road, and we need to give every driver a vehicle in the best possible condition. “Drivers need to treat their buses with re- spect. Why? For improved safety, of course. Do you want your child to ride next to a window that’s not fitted and locked-in properly? Of course not. We need to care about every single child on the bus.” Anthony Ashley oversees the maintenance and inspections department at Atlanta Public Schools. “The key to passing all the required inspections and providing safe and reliable equipment,” the transportation fleet manager said, “is performing detail-oriented preventative maintenance inspections at set intervals.” He added that the district makes it a priority to ensure that post-inspection repairs are made 27

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