TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A report card from New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission paints a worrisome picture for the Garden State’s 24,000 school buses.
The report showed 47 percent of buses failed and had to be taken off the road while an additional 12 percent failed for minor items that do not affect safety and need only be repaired within 30 days.
Ninety-one percent of the failed buses are repaired, re-inspected and passed the same day, MVC spokeswoman Elyse Coffey said.
“We don’t want the public to be alarmed by the initial failure rate,” Coffey told The Press of Atlantic City. “Buses often fail for very small things.”
There are 180 items on the state checklist that can result in a school bus failing inspection: Worn brakes, a broken seat belt or having just one of the 35 lights malfunction can require that a bus be pulled off the road.
In addition to state inspections, school districts are required to do self-inspections every 3,000 miles and keep records for MVC inspectors.
The inspections, performed twice a year, insure student safety and demonstrate how seriously New Jersey takes school bus safety, Coffey said.
Egg Harbor Township, which has one of the largest school bus fleets in southern New Jersey, has taken extra steps to stay on top of even minor problems, and as a result reduced its failure rate from 73 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in the most recent report.
Each day, drivers complete a pre-trip inspection of 52 items that includes looking for interior damage, checking the wheels and tires, windshield wipers, gauges, steering and lights. If they spot anything they mark it on the form and turn it in to the district’s mechanic, transportation coordinator Warren Fipp said.
Minor items are fixed before the buses head out to take students’ homes.
In January 2011, The Press reported that almost half of all school vehicles inspected in 2010 failed inspection and an additional third got 30-day notices. The most common violation was insufficient brakes, which made up 21 percent of all violations. Other common problems included emissions, lights, seats and engine problems.
The MVC’s bus report card is available at www.njmvc.gov.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)