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Wheels on the bus are ready to hit the road

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Posted: Friday, July 27, 2012 1:04 pm | Updated: 10:23 pm, Fri Jul 27, 2012.

Polk County’s school buses are in top working order for the new school year following yearly inspections by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Although most school districts corrected at least one minor problem, district officials say their school buses are in good shape and safe for everyone. The patrol released the results of their yearly inspection in May.

While the Humansville R-4 School District had a 100-percent pass rate, school districts like Bolivar R-1, Half Way R-3, Marion C. Early R-5 and Pleasant Hope R-6 had some problems to correct. Problems are required to be corrected before the buses can go back on route.

Russ Martin said his fleet of 41 Rains and Martin Transportation buses (which run routes for the Bolivar R-1 School District) faced one problem, a leaky air valve. Martin said the problem was corrected on-site and approved before the inspectors left.

“It was fixed within two minutes,” Martin said. “Two years ago, we had one light bulb out on the stop sign and fixed it right on the spot. That’s pretty average. Last year, I think we had 100 percent.”

Martin said that by the time the team of six highway patrol inspectors make it to Bolivar each year, Rains and Martin have already been doing inspections on a consistant basis.

“Once a month, at least, each bus comes through the garage and goes through 100 percent inspection,” Martin said. “If we’re slow and we’ve got a few minutes, we’ll pull one in and check it. It’s easier to keep them up than try to get them ready.”

In Morrisville, Marion C. Early Superintendent Eric Kurre said inspectors found a small leak in a break booster. He said it was fixed and the bus passed inspection the next day.

“Our bus mechanic, Jerry Grisham, and all our drivers do a wonderful job insuring our fleet is in top shape,” Kurre said. “MCE has made a committment to keep our fleet up-to-date and has ongoing training for our drivers.”

Kurre said the district’s oldest bus is a 1999, and the district purchased three 2012 buses during the last school year.

The Half Way R-3 School District had two problems that were corrected. Superintendent Dr. TIm Boatwright said five out of the district’s seven buses are leased and are almost new.

“Bus safety is very important to us, that is one reason we sold our old buses five years ago and started leasing new ones,” Boatwright said. “They are very safe and we feel very fortunate that our students get to ride on new buses every day. Not only are they very reliable but they get better gas mileage than old buses. we now have cameras in the buses. This has helped the discipline problems on the buses, which in turn makes everyone safer.”

Boatwright said the district’s transportation director had to leave his position a few months ago due to health reasons. A new director started this month, he said.

At Pleasant Hope, veteran bus driver of 31 years, Rick Davis, said very small issues, most fixed while the inspectors were on site and all within the same day, accounted for the district’s defective and out-of-service marks.

“We’re a little different than everyone else in that we are indivdually owned over here,” Davis said.

Pleasant Hope’s bus system is a little different from most others in Polk County in that each bus is owned by its driver. Drivers are contracted by the school district to transport students. That means, unlike other districts that have bus barns or mechanic shops with equipment to fix buses on site, individual bus owners have to travel as far as Springfield to purchase parts to repair buses.

“Our buses are very well maintained,” Davis said. “The violations were small stuff — like a switch that was working goes out. We were redlined (out of service) on minor things, and fixed them within two hours.”

Defective ratings are given for small offenses like a light bulb out or a leaky air valve. Out of service ratings are given for a disc problem or other minor issue.

“Everything was fixed and the buses were back on the road before the evening route,” Davis siad. “Everything was completed and we never did skip a beat. Last year we had a 100-percent rating. That’s unbelievable for contracted drivers.”

The Fair Play and Humansville School Districts did not respond to a request for information.

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