How safe are Columbia's school buses?
In a new annual report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Columbia Public School District’s bus fleet comes in just below the state average on school bus maintenance standards. The report looks for defects in school buses and deems them approved, defective, or out-of-service. Columbia Public School district had 23 buses ruled defective and four put out of service, meaning that 85 percent of the district’s 188 buses were approved as up to standard. The state average for approved buses is 89 percent.
Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark says the district’s large fleet size can mean more defective or out-of-service tags on district buses. “There is bound to be something somewhere on one of those buses that is maybe not operating correctly,” she says. “It does not mean that those buses are not safe for transport, it just means that they’re just not 100 percent perfect at that particular time the inspection happens.”
Missouri State Highway Patrol Lieutenant John Hotz says defective buses are put out of service if they have a major defect that can affect the safety of students. “Major defective items can be anything dealing with suspension, steering, exhaust …” he said. “Those are all things that would be considered major violations.”
Baumstark says some causes of minor defects on buses are torn seats, broken horns, or problems with the door opening properly. If a bus has defects like these, the school district is given a 10-day grace period to fix the issue before the bus is re-inspected.