Recently a number of bus tragedies have been highlighted in the news.Some of these tragedies may have been avoided by proper bus maintenance.
When it comes to my line of business, nothing is more important than the safety of the passengers transported on the buses we sell and repair at Carolina Bus Sales, Inc. I am currently over the bus maintenance at our local Church my family attends. I am also the father of a 3 year old and a 5 year old, both girls. I had already put bus safety as a priority in my business. But having my small children ride the bus which the maintenance is managed by me gives me a whole new outlook on safety.
I have been around buses all my life and from my observation, Church buses are the least maintained of all organizations and schools. I know there are plenty of well maintained Church buses out there; I am speaking in general. The problem is not the willingness to keep the buses up – the problem is volunteers (doing the best they can, but) not knowing what to do to keep up with the maintenance. Plus most people don’t know all the regulations, inspections, and paperwork that is currently required to insure that the bus is operating safely.
With all this being said, here are a few of my suggestions for Church bus directors:
1. Do not operate buses that are too old, even if they are low mileage. Parts to repair older buses become hard to get. Repair shops are forced to use Non-OEM parts (parts not made by the manufacturer of the bus). These parts could compromise the safety of the bus. One example is the tag axle on a 1991 Ford E-350. The brake and suspension parts are discontinued. That is an accident waiting to happen!
2. Check tire conditions on a regular basis. Even if the tread looks good, the number one problem with most Church buses is weather cracked tires. I recommend replacing tires that are 6 years old.
3. Spend the time to research all needed documents, inspections, and regulations. This will not only protect you legally, but also it is a good way to have accountability of the condition of the bus.
4. Use a reputable repair facility to inspect and repair your bus at least once per year. Church members take on a lot of liability and responsibility by repairing the buses in their spare time.
5. Always remember that there is a big difference between a large truck that hauls non-perishable goods and a bus that transports our loved ones. Make sure the repair facility you use has plenty of experience in bus repair and a working knowledge of the safety features that buses must have to operate safely.
Protecting our children, families and church members is one of the ways we are charged to shepherd our flocks. I trust that your diligence will ensure that all that are entrusted to your care are safe.