Chatham County students will head back to school next Thursday. MV Transportation is responsible for getting the school bus fleet back in safe and working order after taking over the job from First Student.
“I would say this is probably one of the worst fleets we have ever taken over,” said MV Transportation Communications Vice President Nikki Frenney-Wiggins.
Nikki Frenney-Wiggins, the Vice President of Communications for MV Transportation, said more than 70% of the buses were in poor condition. Inspections revealed bad brakes, bad steering, emergency door problems and more.
Frenney-Wiggins said the district would not allow them to inspect the buses before bidding on the contract.
“We did not have any idea the scope of what we were walking into. I will tell you though through various media reports, before we even bid on this work, we knew there was some safety issues and concerns with this school bus fleet but we had no idea what we were walking into,” said Frenney-Wiggins.
The school district needs at least 370 buses on the first day of school. Frenney-Wiggins said they are 70 short. Around 30 mechanics are working 12 hour shifts to get the rest of the fleet in working order.
While the Superintendent says the fleet continued to be certified by the state while under First Student care, Frenney-Wiggins said MV Transportation basis its safety standards on Federal guidelines.
“Sometimes the state standards simply take a very finite look at the buses say a 30,000 foot look at the buses, they walk around and they look at very specific things and they don’t necessarily put the buses on the lift and look at mechanical and operational issues so there can be a little bit of discrepancy between what they consider safe and what a contractor like MV Transportation considers safe. Once we put the buses on the lift we saw some major mechanical issues that were safety hazards,” said Frenney-Wiggins.
The Superintendent says the district is considering its options if the remaining buses aren’t ready. One idea is for some drivers to do a double run. Drivers would pick up another load of students after dropping off the first group.