With less than three weeks before Chatham County schools start classes, the new company contracting to operate buses has found a fleet of buses in not so great condition. A spokesperson for MV Transportation says on July when it took over from First Student it began an inspection of the fleet, which consists of about 400 buses. That’s normal procedure. What wasn’t so normal is what the company found. “we found most buses had not been maintained as they should have been,” said Nikki Freeney from MV Transportation.
Mechanics, bus drivers and other employees who are members of Teamsters Local 728 say they’re pleased with MV’s response. “Our new employer has stepped up to the plate to make sure we have all the parts we need to make sure these buses are reliable,” says Michael Pendergraph who’s worked as a mechanic servicing school buses for more than ten years. For me it’s not just the job it’s about the safety of the children. My children also ride these buses.”
Pendergraph told us that locally there are a total of 17 mechanics and all have spent the past two weeks working 12 hour days and for the most part, seven days a week. He says there are about 370 bus routes and that means 370 buses are needed in safe, working order by the first day of school.
The inspection found many buses in need of not only basic maintenance but more serious and costly repairs. UP to 300 buses had brake problems. “That means that two thirds of the buses intended for the transportation of Chatham county’s children are not safe,” said Sandra Stimpson of Teamsters Local 728.
So far about 165 buses have been repaired according to Pendergraph. And the company says it brought in 30 mechanics from out of state to help local employees. And more mechanics may be on the way as well.
“As a driver it’s a big relief for me to know there are concerns about safety,” said Edith Dunlap. She told us she’s been driving a bus for about 11 years.
She told us she’s been driving a bus for about 11 years. Dunlap had few compliments for First Student. “Under the old contractor it was very difficult to get any repairs done. If we complained too much they just assigned the bus to someone else and person they assigned it to had no idea what was going on,” she said.
Now Dunlap says most drivers have a lot more confidence as the school year approaches. “I’m glad that MV isn’t starting out cutting corners,” she said.