Monday, May 01, 2000

Eye on Safety-Tecumseh officials aim to reduce district’s bus problems

Eye on Safety
Tecumseh officials aim to reduce district’s bus problems
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Tecumseh, Michigan—Tecumseh school officials are working to reduce the number of safety problems noted for the district’s buses.

State inspection results for this school year showed eight of Tecumseh’s buses were flagged for repairs—representing 40 percent of the district’s bus fleet. In last year’s inspections, seven of Tecumseh’s buses were given red tags, indicating the most serious violation.

Tecumseh was one of a handful of districts in Washtenaw and Lenawee counties where fewer than 80 percent of the buses passed muster in the past two years.

In comparison, the Milan and Saline districts passed with 95 percent or more of their fleets not receiving yellow or red tags during state inspection. Yellow tags indicate less serious problems.

Wendy Clement—Tecumseh transportation director for Ryder Now First Student, which operates the district’s buses—said the company has taken several steps to avoid receiving the high number of red tags for the state’s next inspection, to take place in 2001.

When state inspectors tagged Tecumseh buses, all red-tag safety hazards were corrected the same day, Clement said.

Some example of red-tag infractions include a burned-out headlight, a missing left rear-view mirror or a missing first-aid kit.

Yellow tag problems indicate a lack of function from a bus high beam, a bus horn that does not sound loud enough or missing items from a first-aid kit.

When the state issues a red tag on a school district bus, the vehicle is grounded until the safety infraction is corrected. For a bus that has been yellow-tagged, the repair must be made within 60 days.

Tecumseh has been served by the privately-owned bus company for the past four years. Clement said buses undergo a safety inspection once every three months or every 3,000 miles. Previously buses were inspected only every four months or every 4,000 miles, she said.

The company also hired a new mechanic, Clement said.

Sue Randolph, a bus driver for the district since 1992, said district buses are the newest buses the district has had in recent memory.

“We don’t have anything that’s over 9 years old. The average age (of our buses is) probably 4 to 5 years old,” Clement said.

Over the past few years, the state’s rating of Tecumseh’s buses has ranged anywhere from excellent to poor. In 1997-1998, Ann Arbor News archives show that none of the district’s buses received a red or yellow tags.

Clement said that the total fleet travels more than 282,000 miles every year.

Clement emphasized that Tecumseh bus drivers have had “zero preventable accidents” this school year. At a recent Tecumseh school board meeting, Clement told trustees that Tecumseh buses sustained two crashes—while empty of passengers—that were not the fault of the drivers.

Tecumseh Schools has 17 routes and a total of 25 drivers serving the district, transportation officials said.

Originally published Monday, May 1, 2000

Photo Caption: Wendy Clement, director of transportation for the Tecumseh Public Schools.

Inspection Record:
A review of how area districts fared in state bus inspections in 1999-2000. School buses are inspected at least once every school year; some districts have not yet been evaluated for this school year.

Red Yellow Pass Total buses
1999-2000 Inspection Results
Tecumseh Public Schools 8 1 11 20
Clinton Community Schools 1 0 10 11
Saline Area School District 1 0 40 41

1998-99 Inspection Results
Tecumseh Public Schools 7 2 11 20
Clinton Community Schools 2 1 9 12
Saline Area School District 1 1 39 41
Milan Area Schools 0 1 19 20
Dundee Community Schools * 16 2 5 23

*In 1997-98, the state gave Dundee school buses five red tags, zero yellow tags, 13 passes for their 18-bus fleet.